Where In The Universe Challenge #22

by Nancy Atkinson on September 24, 2008

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It’s time once again for this week’s Where In The Universe challenge. Take a look at the image above and try to determine where in the universe this image was taken. Give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for taking this image. As always, no peeking below before you make your guess. And comments are welcome if you want to share how well you did!

Make your guess, and then proceed.

This prominent circular feature, known as the Richat Structure, is found on our home planet Earth, in the Sahara Desert. Lots of astronauts have noted it and taken pictures of it because it forms a conspicuous 50-kilometer-wide (30-mile-wide) bullet’s-eye on the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Initially it was thought to be an impact crater, but it is now known to be an eroded circular anticline (structural dome) of layered sedimentary rocks.

This image was generated from a Landsat satellite image draped over an elevation model produced by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), so if you said either a satellite or an astronaut took this image, you can consider yourself correct. The view uses a 6-times vertical exaggeration to greatly enhance topographic expression. To give a scale for this image, the height of the mesa ridge in the back center of the view is about 285 meters (about 935 feet) tall. This is a color enhanced image, using both visible and infrared bands, which helps to differentiate bedrock (browns), sand (yellow, some white), minor vegetation in drainage channels (green), and salty sediments (bluish whites). Some shading of the elevation model was included to further highlight the topographic features.

This is quite a striking image from the old home planet.

See a hi-resolution image here.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Michael Foerster September 24, 2008 at 5:00 PM

Richat Structure, Mauritania, EARTH (my favorite planet!)

It has to be Shuttle radar.

GOT IT! (I don’t get all the “Where in the U” subjects, but this image is already one of my favorites)

Jorge September 24, 2008 at 6:09 PM

OK, this is a famous circular structure in the Sahara desert which is not an impact crater and whose name I don’t recall now. So the planet is Earth. That’s definitely.

As for the spacecraft, well, I don’t think I’m gonna nail it. The colours are too crisp to be a simple picture shot from the ISS by an astronaut. I’d expect some blue haze with that perspective. So I would guess it to be an enhanced colour picture shot from some other Earth orbiter. Or the result of post treatement of a vertical photo with a digital elevation model of some sort.

Let’s see now…

Wow! Apart from the names of the structure and the orbiter I did great! :)

I think I’m putting this one on the success column…

RL September 24, 2008 at 6:52 PM

D’OH! I guessed Mars. My son guessed Venus.

I was thinking Earth but changed my answer.

Maybe next time!

Nexus September 24, 2008 at 8:09 PM

I guessed Mars, and either Spirit or Opportunity. I was wrong.

Frank September 24, 2008 at 8:19 PM

I guessed Io…boy was I off.

Micah Sittig September 24, 2008 at 8:21 PM

I guessed Earth/satellite, but had no idea what/who. There are more pictures of the structure on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=Richat+Structure&m=text

Including this striking perspective:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25946251@N08/2514069722/

Astrofiend September 24, 2008 at 9:05 PM

Got Earth, got ‘a desert somewhere’.

No idea of the satellite that snapped it though…

Luis September 25, 2008 at 5:13 AM

Yellowstone

Luis September 25, 2008 at 5:14 AM

Yellowstone in earth

LLDIAZ September 25, 2008 at 7:51 AM

I thought Venus.
The colors threw me off…

newton September 25, 2008 at 1:11 AM

TITAN

Adam September 25, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Now this was somewhat unfair. The vertical exaggeration made me assume that it could not be Earth since the slopes looked to steep. My guess was thus that it would be Mars with some kind of false colour mineral map. Though the “river” beds did give it away a little so I was considering the Earth. Obviously the feature was not one that I was aware of so I didn’t have that for free. Distorting an image to this degree makes deducing the location very hard.

/Adam

Price September 25, 2008 at 5:37 AM

The vertical exaggeration was a great shame. The image was not ‘taken’ – it was constructed from 2 or more disparate images. ‘Taken’ implies captured without gross manipulation. Until now I have enjoyed these image quizzes.

Dankwa September 25, 2008 at 6:32 AM

Got Earth correct. My 2nd time of nailing 1/2 of the answer. I am still hopeful that one day I will get the spacecraft correct. Great image, learnt something new.

Pedro September 25, 2008 at 6:41 AM

I thought it was earth, but – I don’t know why – I receive the newsletter almost 12 hours and It was allready solved.

But I’ll just keep on the game just for the sheer fun of it!

Pedro

Navneeth September 25, 2008 at 8:47 AM

Earth…yes! Otherwise I was clueless.

Vino September 26, 2008 at 2:02 AM

I thought it was Mars… :(

Dori September 26, 2008 at 7:52 AM

Well, at least I got the right planet, though I thought it was a caldera on some island somewhere. Looked to me like there was a spray of water hitting the cliffs at the top of the photo, just left of center.

Peter September 27, 2008 at 1:04 PM

Well, I agree that by adulterating the photo (montage) it takes away from the reality that allows for educated tries. The only place in the solar system with that much yellow is Io and yet we don’t have any extreme close ups of that moon so I gave up. Reading the answer didn’t make me feel any better.

genesis continuous October 11, 2008 at 1:43 PM

Wow! I guessed it was earth, but Satel Light is a terrific artist.

David

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