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Watch Egyptian Desert Transform As Crop Circles Sprout in Time-Lapse Video

A new time-lapse video shows hundreds of dark crop circles springing up in the Egyptian desert. It uses a series of satellite images dating back to 1998.

Crop circles are important in gaining water in the East Oweinat area, which is shown in this picture series, as well as other regions of Egypt — a country that is over 95% desert. 

Egypt must get creative to meet growing demands for food, and that includes these 800-meter-wide (2,600 feet) circles. The time-lapse illustrates an irrigation method that uses fossil water, which has been underground for millennia. The water comes from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, the largest known fossil aquifer in the world, and is channeled to the surface through a set of sprinklers rotating around a central pivot.

That water then sustains crops like wheat, potatoes and barley, which particularly thrive in the low-salt fossil water of the area. Much of the produce then travels through the Sharq El Owainat airport, which opened in 2003 and appears toward the right of the animation.

Also on display in the animation are the moving sand dunes of the desert, particularly in the upper left corner of the frame.

Scientists use long-term observations of Earth in part to monitor how land use changes over time. The 150-plus included images in this time-lapse video come from several U.S. Landsat satellites, as well as the European Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. 

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.

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