An astronaut captures a natural marvel from space featuring a ghostly face in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
Our planet has the capability to surprise us at every turn. Every day some marvel about this beautiful planet comes in full display, backing up this belief. The most recent one came from outside the planet. An astronaut captured a unique and unexpected view while looking at the Sahara Desert, per IFL Science. The photo showed a ghostly face peering through the desert. It seemed right out of a sci-fi movie, welcoming earthly people into a new dimension. Though the image was taken on February 12, it was uploaded by Nasa Earth Observatory on Halloween, to match the theme. Further investigations have revealed the true nature of the "ghostly face."
The whole view was captured by an ISS astronaut through a Nikon D5 digital camera. Though it might have looked like a supervillain's lair, the ghostly face was actually a peculiarly shaped volcanic crater. The volcano in question is the Trou au Natron in northern Chad. It is a 1,000-meter (3,300-foot) deep volcanic caldera having a diameter of six to eight kilometers. Its base is covered with a white powder known as natron, which contributes to its name. The powder is a mixture of various components like sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate. In between the layer of white powder, there are black pits which featured as the eyes and nose of the "ghostly face." These "pits" get formulated as cinder cones due to the impact of volcanic vents.
The volcano is located in the Tibesti Mountains. These are the highest mountain massifs found in the Sahara at an elevation of 2,450 meters. They are isolated from the world because of its environmental conditions. Still, because of its ecological importance, it has continued to be an area of interest. The interest has multiplied after the eerie sighting from space. Though not hugely populated by humans, the mountain serves as a home to golden jackals, fennec foxes, gazelles, African wildcats and various bird species. It is also the ancestral land of the semi-nomadic Toubou people.
As per Kanaga, the mountains were created due to lava flows and basaltic and sandstone sediments. As years went by, these elements were eroded by atmospheric agents who turned them into canyons. Even though it is extremely difficult for humans to survive in such extreme environments, certain tribes have persevered. Generations of these tribes have lived on these lands for thousands of years. It is the perseverance of these tribes that has protected the fertility of the valleys of acacias and vegetable gardens. They believe themselves to be warriors and breeders and consider it their responsibility to protect their lands. The entire massif is enveloped by palm groves, gorges and crevasses that plunge steeply down to the golden sand of the Sahara.
The volcano's isolated location is a huge reason why researchers were not able to delve deep into the area and analyze the volcano in detail. Moreover, there have been significant political tensions around the area, which has further reduced the scope. To this date, there has been no concrete information regarding the formation of Trou au Natron. Since it is extinct by nature, findings related to it have not been prioritized. Certain scientists have come to the conclusion that 14,000 years ago, it existed as a deep glacial lake.