ISS020-E-26195

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Spacecraft nadir point: 21.5° N, 20.7° E

Photo center point: 19.1° N, 19.2° E

Nadir to Photo Center: Southwest

Spacecraft Altitude: 187 nautical miles (346km)
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Image Caption: Aorounga Impact Crater, Chad

Aorounga Impact Crater is located in the Sahara Desert, in north-central Chad, and is one of the best preserved impact structures in the world. The crater is thought to be middle or upper Devonian to lower Mississippian (approximately 345-370 million years old) based on the age of the sedimentary rocks deformed by the impact. Spaceborne Imaging Radar (SIR) data collected in 1994 suggests that Aorounga is one of a set of three craters formed by the same impact event. The other two suggested impact structures are buried by sand deposits.

The concentric ring structure of the Aorounga crater--renamed Aorounga South in the multiple-crater interpretation of SIR data--is clearly visible in this detailed astronaut photograph. The central highland, or peak, of the crater is surrounded by a small sand-filled trough; this in turn is surrounded by a larger circular trough. Linear rock ridges alternating with light orange sand deposits cross the image from upper left to lower right; these are called yardangs by geomorphologists. Yardangs form by wind erosion of exposed rock layers in a unidirectional wind field. The wind blows from the northeast at Aorounga, and sand dunes formed between the yardangs are actively migrating to the southwest.