Earth Matters

August Puzzler

August 24th, 2021 by Adam Voiland

UPDATE — This image shows part of Wadi Rum in Jordan, a popular place for filming movies set on Mars. See the full image and story in our August 28 Image of the Day. Congratulations to Dr. Nadia Asad and Holger Wille for being some of the first readers to solve the puzzler.

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The August 2021 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what we are looking at, where it is, and why it is interesting.

How to answer. You can use a few words or several paragraphs. You might simply tell us the location, or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure feature. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it.

The prize. We cannot offer prize money or a trip to Mars, but we can promise you credit and glory. Well, maybe just credit. Roughly one week after a puzzler image appears on this blog, we will post an annotated and captioned version as our Image of the Day. After we post the answer, we will acknowledge the first person to correctly identify the image at the bottom of this blog post. We also may recognize readers who offer the most interesting tidbits of information about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have shaped the landscape. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend an institution that you would like to recognize, please mention that as well.

Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the past few months, or if you work in geospatial imaging, please hold your answer for at least a day to give less experienced readers a chance.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some puzzlers after a few minutes. To give more people a chance, we may wait 24 to 48 hours before posting comments. Good luck!

39 Responses to “August Puzzler”

  1. Dr. Nadia Asad says:

    Lat: 29°39’20.59″N, Long: 35°27’2.07″E. Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) Jordan. Declared as Protected Area by UNESCO, described as “The 74,000-hectare property, inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site, is situated in southern Jordan, near the border with Saudi Arabia. It features a varied desert landscape consisting of a range of narrow gorges, natural arches, towering cliffs, ramps, massive landslides and caverns. Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region.”

  2. Ivan Kordač says:

    This picture help me remember a trip to Single Arch monument, but not at all on satelite maps… so… I dont know at this moment… but

  3. Petar Vuko says:

    Wadi Rum in Jordan

  4. Ghaith says:

    Wadi run in Jordan

  5. Christoph Schmidt says:

    Wadi Rum, Jordan …
    the building right in the picture – Disah

  6. Dídac Peña says:

    The image shows Wadi Rum desert in Jordan,.
    The town on the right side is Disha. On the left side you can see the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center.

  7. Mike M says:

    Looks like Devon Island to me, which I would love to visit, like being on Mars.

    What do I win!

  8. Juan Pablo García Montoya says:

    This place is Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan.

  9. Zed says:

    I want To work in Mars

  10. Juan Pablo García Montoya says:

    This place is Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. The image is in natural color

  11. Ivan Kordač says:

    29.6813133N, 35.4348553E

    Wadi rum key camp
    Jabal Rum Camp … Aqaba, Jordan

    I repeat my answer better. Ivan

  12. Jose Andy Martinez says:

    Looks like a arid zone; is not a desert; probably USA, the picture shows human activity.

  13. Jose Andy Martinez says:

    Looks like a arid zone; is not a desert.

  14. Holger Wille says:

    This is the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan. The location was used to film the movie “The Martian” for its similarity in appearance to the Martian desert. Other movies such as Dune 2020, Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker, and Prometheus also used Wadi Rum as a location for filming.

  15. REESE SNYDER says:

    I think it’s in Nevada

  16. Ray Phenicie says:

    For purposes of this discussion I’ll assume the top of the photo is north.
    The first thing that strikes the viewer is the movement of sand through rock formations. The rocks have been shaped by long term movement of sand in prevailing winds from a northwesterly direction to the southeast, or perhaps the reverse direction.
    The red coloration to the sand made me think this was a photo from the recent Mars explorer until I noticed definite lines and shapes that are in regular formation that indicates human activity. The combination of red sand and largish outcroppings of rock make me think this is located somewhere along the North West coast of Africa.

  17. David says:

    It’s the wadi rum isn’t it

  18. Gloria Einstein says:

    Andean valleys

  19. Gloria Einstein says:

    Andean valley

  20. Jeff Connolly says:

    The Wadi Rum area in Jordan has served as a filming location for many movies set on Mars, including one of the most recent, The Martian, starring Matt Damon.

  21. Nadeem says:

    Wadi Rum , Jordan

  22. Hamzah M. N. Abuzaid says:

    It’s Wadi Rum area in Jordan ??
    It’s known “ Valley of the Moon “
    many Movies scenes set their ,
    ( Martian ) ( Indiana Jones ) ( Aladdin )

  23. Nick Stavrakis says:

    Namib Desert north western Namibia. In vicinity of Korixas.

  24. Eric Moss says:

    Wadi Rum, Jordan!

  25. Andrés Roche Millet says:


  26. Andrés Roche Millet says:


  27. Salim Al Harthy says:

    This place looks like our country’s desert in Oman.

  28. Dana Borowiec says:

    It’s Mars

  29. Trenton whitehead says:

    Its somewhere in Arizona, hardly notice any shade from the sun, and could barely make out the highways in satellite image.

  30. Tim Charsley says:

    Sand desert with upstanding strongly jointed sandstone mountains. Geological history must involve an early cool period of riverine erosion followed by arid conditions with dominant wind erosion and sand deposition. Probable salt flats near NNE edge of image. Definitely Lawrence of Arabia country of Southern Jordan.


    29.66 N, 35.47 E. Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan. Here is a movie shooting place of “Lawrence of Arabia”. It is dotted with the campgrounds which can experience desert here.

  32. Clovis Sarturi says:

    Jordan desert

  33. Matei Mihăilescu says:

    Wadi Rum


  34. Dirk says:

    Wadi Rum in Jordan

  35. Albeiro Arias says:

    Wadi Rum, Jordan.

  36. Ali Rostami says:

    “Loot” Desert of IRAN ??

  37. Patrick BRUSNAHAN says:

    We have a photo showing a portion of Wadi Rum, Jordan, north of Disah. Coloration a result of the granite and sandstone. Location popular in off-Earth movies for it’s other-worldly appearance. See also TE Lawrence (thanks Wikipedia; donation on its way).

  38. zeg says:

    Nadia is the winner!
    The rest of us are loosers

  39. Spike Thomas says:

    Nadia has a capability.