This space radar image shows the Roter Kamm impact crater in southwest Namibia. The crater rim is seen in the lower center of the image as a radar-bright, circular feature. Geologists believe the crater was formed by a meteorite that collided with Earth approximately 5 million years ago. The data were acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) instrument onboard space shuttle Endeavour on April 14, 1994. The area is located at 27.8 degrees south latitude and 16.2 degrees east longitude in southern Africa. The colors in this image were obtained using the following radar channels: red represents the L-band (horizontally transmitted and received); green represents the L-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received); and blue represents the C-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received). The area shown is approximately 25.5 kilometers (15.8 miles) by 36.4 kilometers (22.5 miles), with north toward the lower right. The bright white irregular feature in the lower left corner is a small hill of exposed rock outcrop. Roter Kamm is a moderate sized impact crater, 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) in diameter rim to rim, and is 130 meters (400 feet) deep. However, its original floor is covered by sand deposits at least 100 meters (300 feet) thick. In a conventional aerial photograph, the brightly colored surfaces immediately surrounding the crater cannot be seen because they are covered by sand. The faint blue surfaces adjacent to the rim may indicate the presence of a layer of rocks ejected from the crater during the impact. The darkest areas are thick windblown sand deposits which form dunes and sand sheets. The sand surface is smooth relative to the surrounding granite and limestone rock outcrops and appears dark in radar image. The green tones are related primarily to larger vegetation growing on sand soil, and the reddish tones are associated with thinly mantled limestone outcrops. Studies of impact craters on the surface of the Earth help geologists understand the role of the impact process in the Earth's evolution, including effects on the atmosphere and on biological evolution.
Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The radars illuminate Earth with microwaves allowing detailed observations at any time, regardless of weather or sunlight conditions. SIR-C/X-SAR uses three microwave wavelengths: L-band (24 cm), C-band (6 cm) and X-band (3 cm). The multi-frequency data will be used by the international scientific community to better understand the global environment and how it is changing. The SIR-C/X-SAR data, complemented by aircraft and ground studies, will give scientists clearer insights into those environmental changes which are caused by nature and those changes which are induced by human activity. SIR-C was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. X-SAR was developed by the Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur fuer Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).