Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers snapped an amazing photo of a glowing copper crater as the ISS passed over Africa recently. The shot is so otherworldly it would be easy to mistake this giant geological formation as something you'd find on Mars or Jupiter. The mysterious crater is known as the Richat Structure.
The Richat Structure — the "Eye of the Desert" —is actually a well-known landmark for orbiting space crews, located in Mauritania in West Africa. It's easy for them to spot — with distinct concentric rings spreading some 30 miles in diameter like a target.
When first discovered many thought the Richat Structure was the result of a meteor strike, but geologists have since discounted that having analyzed the rock that makes it up. The Structure is actually thought to be the product of "uplifts" or an anticline in the Earth's crust that gradually wore away over millions of years. Harder paleozoic quartzite forms the ridges we see today.
It's a geological phenomenon that happens nowhere else on Earth.
Kuipers got the unique shot of the Structure on March 7 as the ISS floated 240 miles overhead. He used a Nikon D2x camera and happened to capture the crater in a unique light. Kuipers is one of six astronauts calling the ISS home during its current mission.