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Envisat: The Tanezrouft basin in the Sahara

The Envisat satellite, built by Airbus Defence and Space and orbiting at an altitude of almost 800 kilometres, has the desert area in its sights. This picture, released in November 2010, was created by combining three radar images captured over a period of almost six months (on 23 March 2009, 1 June 2009 and 14 September 2009). The spectacular play of colours brings out surface changes that occurred over the course of the observation period.

With sand and rubble stretching in every direction as far as the eye can see and topped with spectacular cliff formations, this is a place of rugged beauty. It is a raw stretch of Earth, in almost every sense – and yet its beauty is breathtaking. The Tanezrouft basin in the Sahara has extremely low rainfall, which is why this region, straddling the border between Algeria and Mali, is effectively devoid of vegetation. The basin’s hills and its sand dunes large and small are uninhabited, save for a few small oasis towns. The form of the landscape is determined by erosion – caused in ancient times by water, and today by the relentless winds.

Earth ObservationEnvisat