The Eye of the Sahara has been hiding for millennia in plain sight. This was due to the fact that the mysterious geological formation, despite it being huge, is very difficult to spot when on the ground level. It was only when NASA began to send people into space that the bulls-eye among the sand was discovered for the first time. Even now scientists are still wondering about it and still have questions.



The Eye of the Sahara was formally known as the Richat structure, and it is situated in the Mauritania in the Western Sahara Desert. The formation is around 25 miles across. The Gemini IV mission took a four-day orbit around the Earth and when it was being readied in 1965 astronauts were told to take some photographs of the terrain of the Earth. They were asked to keep an eye out for large circular features that might be the impact structures roots, according to the text that came with some photographs that had been published from the mission.

Impact craters are very important in geological terms as they tell people about the Earth’s history. They also reveal to scientists how many times space rocks have come crashing onto the planet and this is then able to help scientists to predict what might happen in the future. For quite some time the scientists believed that the Eye of the Sahara was, in fact, an impact crater. However, one thing was missing from the theory; there was not enough melted rock. Now more current theories have suggested that there is a story that is much more complicated behind the natural formation.


It is believed that the Eyes main ring structure could be the eroded remains of what might have been a dome of layers of the crust of the Earth. While scientists still have many questions about the structure, two geologists from Canada have come up with a working theory about how the Eye may have come about.

They said that the formation of the Eye might have started over 100 million years ago when Pangaea, the supercontinent, was torn apart by the plate tectonics along with South America and Africa being torn away from each other. They say that the molten rock that pushed upwards toward the Earth’s surface perhaps did not make it all the way and this could have created rock layers in a dome, much like a large pimple on the surface of the skin. This may then have created fault lines that circled and crossed the Eye. The molten rock would also have dissolved limestone close to the middle of the Eye and this would have then collapsed and would have formed a type of rock called breccia.

Shortly after 100 million years, the Eye would have erupted in a violent fashion, and the bubble would have collapsed partway, while erosion would have done the rest and thus created the Eye of the Sahara. The rings of the structure would have been made from rocks of different types that would have eroded at speeds that differed over time. The much paler of the circles close to the middle of the Eye is the volcanic rock that would have been created by the explosion.


Astronauts are very fond of the Eye as a lot of the Sahara Desert is nothing more than a sea of sand that is unbroken. The Eye is just one of very few breaks in the sand, and it does away with the monotony, and for astronauts, it has now become one of the key landmarks. There are some people who think that the Eye of the Sahara might be the remains of the city of Atlantis as Plato was said to have described it as being concentric rings of land and water.