A vast river network that once carried water for 500km across Western Sahara has been discovered under the parched sands of Mauritania.

The Sahara, Mauritania.

The Sahara, Mauritania. Image by Jurgen / CC BY 2.0

The discovery was made using radar images taken from a Japanese Earth observation satellite. The buried waterway may have formed a section of the proposed Tamanrasett River that is believed to have flowed across parts of the Sahara in ancient times. The source of the water would have been from the southern Atlas mountains and Hoggar highlands in what is now Algeria. The French-led team behind the discovery think the river carried water to the sea during periodic humid spells over the past 245,000 years, though water has likely not coursed through the channels in the past 5000 years. Read more: theguardian.com