Today’s story is the answer to the August puzzle.
Wadi Rum is like few other places on Earth. In fact, the distinctive desert landscapes have inspired more than one filmmaker to use the valley of southern Jordan as a substitute for Mars.
Among them was Ridley Scott, director of the 2015 film. The Martian. Scott made frequent use of the landscapes of Wadi Rum, often taking viewers on scenic tours of surreal inselbergs, spiers and rock turrets as fictional astronaut Mark Watney tried to survive and return home from Mars.
Seen from space, it’s easy to see why Scott chose this location. The colors and textures of Wadi Rum, shown in the natural-colored Landsat 8 image above, closely match those found on Mars. The area, which appears several times in the film, features towering sandstone and granite inselbergs that punctuate valleys covered in iron-rich sand. It includes one of the region’s most iconic rock formations: the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a group of natural stone pillars that jut out from the northern end of Jebel Um Ishrin.
Most of the significant rock formations in Wadi Rum are made up of layers of partially eroded sedimentary rock, mostly purple and white sandstones, which formed hundreds of millions of years ago when sea level was higher and that the area was muddy at the bottom of an ocean on top of a granite base. Once the sea level dropped and exposed the new sedimentary rocks, a combination of tectonic uplift, wind, and water eroded and sculpted them, leaving valleys filled with sand and jagged terrain.
Scott felt that the landscape was such a good approximation of Mars that he made only a few changes during the edit. He added red dust in the background to many shots and occasionally added computer generated clouds and dust storms for dramatic effect. “I didn’t do anything other than shoot it at the right time, from the right positions,” Ridley told Space.com. “Tome, [Wadi Rum] is the eighth wonder of the world. It’s incredible.”.
Mars aficionados and sci-fi moviegoers can keep an eye out for Wadi Rum in several other films. red planet (2000), The last days on Mars (2013), Prometheus (2012), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) all of them used Wadi Rum as a replacement for Mars or other fictional desert planets. “I was in awe of this place, it was really, really special,” actor Matt Damon said of his time filming there. “[It is] one of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen, and unlike anything else on Earth. “
Image from NASA’s Earth Observatory by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey. Story of Adam Voiland.