Sandswept world

By Phil Plait | March 12, 2010 7:24 am

Hot on the heels of the post the other day about the winds on Mars blowing the sand dunes and visibly moving them across the planet’s surface comes this new satellite image of a huge sandstorm raging across the planet:


Of course, I’d forgive you if you interpret my saying "the planet" as meaning Mars. However, this picture is of Earth! Specifically, the Middle East. This March 4th image from the Terra satellite shows a plume of sand 100 km (60 miles!) across sweeping from Saudi Arabia over Kuwait and into Iran.

In some ways, Mars and Earth are very similar. Sometimes, it’s even hard to tell them apart…


Comments (10)


    A bit off-topic here, but start a new thread!

    This image is actually reasonably good, though it reminds me more of a 1970s Ian Anderson (especially the eyes).

  2. Gary Ansorge

    “,,,and if you’ll observe the southern portion of your picture, you’ll notice the red sands of the Rub Al Kahli, the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, where rain has not fallen if 100 years(as far as anyone knows). Yet still, there is life,,,”

    There may still be life in those red MArtian sands. Let’s go take a closer look.

    Let me just warm up my nuclear rocket,,,

    GAry 7

  3. JRG

    The vegetation and water were a little bit of a tipoff!

    But I love photoposts. Usually so much awesome new wallpaper material in ’em.

  4. AH Malik

    As a citizen in Kuwait, I can tell you that it can get quite dusty at time. You close the windows as hard as possible, some will still leak inside the house and stays in the air. It can be difficult to sleep when you can smell sand in your own room!

    Sometimes, the sky will look phenomenal though, crimson red with an orange hue.

  5. Ala'a

    Another thing is the clouds. Sometimes a low pressure system would lead to the convergence of clouds – even rain – and dust simultaneously.

    We routinely have to endure such storms. As a matter of fact the visibility conditions were so bad on that Thursday that many schools and businesses were closed.

  6. oldebabe

    Great photo, Phil. Thanks. A big interest for many people is the home planet as well.

  7. The blue jumped off the screen at me and I knew instantly that Phil was playing tricks with us…
    Tricksy hobbitses!

    On the Mars dust storm front (heh) the Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair was held on Wednesday at the John Paul Jones Arena. We at CAS awarded 2 Nikon 7×50 binocs, 2 binocular astronomy books, 2 planispheres & 2 certificates to a pair of girls from Stafford County for their Mars dust storm simulation project.

    Coincidence? You be da judge!

  8. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Of course, I‚Äôd forgive you if you interpret my saying “the planet” as meaning Mars. However, this picture is of Earth!

    Just a quick glance at the blue of the ocean and green of the vegetation there was more than enough to tell us this was Earth & not Mars. Sorry BA, but I can’t see any possible cause or liklihood for confusion there! ūüėČ

    The Spirit / Galapagos panorama one was much more confuse-able up to the shot with the ocean and blue sky in the background! ūüėČ

  9. Carlos

    The borders of a Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are clearly visible. Did NASA post-process them in?


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