Prepare to Be Duped by Dunes
published during a waxing crescent moon.
08/10/2016

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Admit it, you have no idea what planet this is. And the credit (NASA) doesn’t help. (Answer: This is Earth)

Like a faithful (or possibly obsessive) penpal, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has sent us postcards from Mars on a monthly basis for over a decade now. And despite the fact that Mars is, indeed, another planet, the more we see of its dunes, craters, and ice caps the more we can’t help but think, hmm…it all looks a bit familiar, right?

This month’s haul of 1,035 images to our inbox (you sure must miss us, MRO!) is no exception. The mission’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, managed by the University of Arizona, Tucson, has captured images of Martian dunes that look like the perfect locations for a remake of the 1962 epic historical drama film, Lawrence of Arabia, or like lost film stills from Werner Herzog’s 1971 mystic desert flick, Fata Morgana.

In fact, if Mars’ and Earth’s desertscapes were all together in a lineup, we bet you couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Think you know your beloved home planet? Prepare to be duped by dunes.

Whose dunes are these?

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Jeans Crater Dunes Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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The Issaouane Erg, Algeria Credit: NASA

Answer: Earth!

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Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter Credit: NASA

Answer: Earth!

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Dune Field with Bright Fans Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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Sand Dunes in Southern Mid-Latitudes Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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Dunes Dubbed Kolhar Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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The Namib-Naukluft National Park Credit: NASA/ASTER

Answer: Earth!

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Dune with Seasonally-Persistent Light-Toned Features Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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The Murzuq Sand Sea, Libya Credit: NASA

Answer: Earth!

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Dunes Atop Crater Infill Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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Dunes Dubbed Buzzel Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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Linear dunes in the Great Sand Sea in southwest Egypt Credit: NASA

Answer: Earth!

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Dunes with Fans Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

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Rub’ al Khali Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS

Answer: Earth!

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Dunes Within Arkhangelsky Crater Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Answer: Mars!

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Australia’s Lake Eyre Credit: NASA/USGS

Answer: Earth!

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Chloride and Paleo Dunes in Terra Sirenum Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

Answer: Mars!

For a more up close and personal view of Mars’ stunning slopes, take a gander of “High Dune,” photographed in November 2015 by NASA’s Curiosity rover. This region is part of the “Bagnold Dunes” field near Mount Sharp.

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Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona