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Starts With A Bang

Quiz: Mars or Earth?

Credit: NASA
With a whole-planet comparison, you’d never confuse the two worlds. But from their surfaces, telling them apart is harder than you’d think. Image credit: NASA.

Think you can tell the red planet from our own? Answers below!

“This is the plan. Get your ass to Mars, and go to the Hilton Hotel and flash the fake Brubaker I.D. at the front desk, that’s all there is to it.” 
Hauser, Total Recall

From a distance, Earth and Mars are nothing alike. The water-rich, life-filled world that we call home looks nothing like the frozen, desert wastelands of the red planet. But the following ten images might prove to you that telling these two worlds apart is harder than you might imagine. Can you tell the difference?

This pattern of desert rock, sand and frozen ground looks like perfect terrain for a rover’s wheels. But is it from Mars or Earth?

1.) Rugged, rocky terrain. Mars or Earth?

Are these dry, sandy valleys features of Mars or of Earth?

2.) Dry, sandy valleys. Mars or Earth?

Do the sloping, red-colored rocks and strata illuminated by the Sun occur here on Earth, or on Mars?

3.) Sloping red rock, with erosion. Mars or Earth?

Do these rocky outcroppings over an eroded, sandy valley occur on Earth or on Mars?

4.) Rocky outcrop over a cold, sandy valley. Mars or Earth?

This mountainous dune field looks like it would be at home on either Earth or Mars. Without the sky revealed, can you tell?

5.) Mountainous dune field. Mars or Earth?

Is this mountain vista red because of an Earthly sunset, or because of the iron-rich terrain of Mars?

6.) Mountain vista. Mars or Earth?

A crater and evidence of lava flows down the sides of a volcano. Is this a Mars volcano or an Earth volcano?

7.) Satellite photo of a volcano. Mars or Earth?

Are these rocky, marble-like deposits found on our world or our redder neighbor?

8.) Hematite spheres. Mars or Earth?

Does this glimpse into a rocky, hilly valley occur on Earth or on Mars?

9.) A rocky, hilly valley. Mars or Earth?

These beautiful sand dunes look like they’d be right at home on Mars… or in one of Earth’s deserts. Which one is it?

10.) Sand dunes on the surface. Mars or Earth?


The full image reveals the frozen waters and blue skies of Earth. This is Devon Island, Canada, the largest uninhabited island in that country. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Anthonares under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

1.) Earth.

Antarctica’s ice-free McMurdo Dry Valleys might look like Mars, but not only occur here on Earth, they may even harbor microbial life. Image credit: NSF.

2.) Earth.

The mountainous regions of Tenerife in Teide National Park on the Canary Islands in Spain are beautiful, but as Mars-like as they appear, are here on Earth. Image credit: Azuaje of flickr, under c.c.-by-2.0.

3.) Earth.

These rocky outcroppings over a desert valley occur in the Atacama desert in Chile. The humans are a giveaway, as is the solid ice, which would sublimate on the martian surface very quickly. Image credit: Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa.

4.) Earth.

The Mesquite Flat Dune field at Death Valley National Park most definitely occurs on Earth. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Brocken Inaglory.

5.) Earth.

The European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) at sunset at Paranal Observatory in the Andes mountains. Image credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi.

6.) Earth.

This is the Pico de Orizaba volcano in Mexico, as photographed from the International Space Station and NASA Earth Observatory.

7.) Earth.

These hematite spheres are known as Moqui balls, and are found in the Utah desert. They are similar to the “Martian Blueberries” found by the Opportunity rover, but these are on Earth. Image credit: Marjorie Chan, University of Utah.

8.) Earth.

Earth has many regions that are a lot like Mars, and this image shows scientist Lucie Poulet from the DLR German Aerospace Center is taking part in a two-week simulated mission on Mars held in February 2014 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA. Image credit: MDRS/ESA-O. Doule.

9.) Earth.

The dunes are inside Endurance Crater on Mars; many martian craters contain dunes. Image credit: Mars — Opportunity Rover NASA/JPL Caltech/Michael Benson/Kinetikon Pictures.

10.) Mars. It’s the only one that wasn’t Earth.

With election day behind us and a new president-elect, millions of Earth denizens don’t want to live on this planet anymore. While we might not be able to make it to Mars, there are plenty of places on Earth just like it. Good luck!

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of an astronomical phenomenon in visuals and no more than 200 words.

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