Where on Earth: Sand Sea in Oman

Video Player

Video Versions

What are the dark orange shapes in this photograph from space?

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).

Story adapted from Image of the Day post by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/50744/ar-rub-al-khali-sand-sea-arabian-peninsula

  • Image of Ar Rub' al Khali Sand Sea from Expedition 27 Crew, International Space Station
  • Written by Katherine Porter
  • Designed by Dani Player
  • Music from Yesh Music (ASCAP)

A collage of satellite imagery. Text, Where on Earth?
Long, jagged striations form a repetitive terrain pattern in the desert. What are the dark orange shapes in this photograph? A. Sand bars in Texas. B. Sand dunes in Oman. C. Sandstone ridges in Chile. D. Sandstone canyons in Australia.
The correct answer is B, Sand dunes in Oman.
Ar Rub' al Khali Sand Sea, Oman, photographed by Expedition 27 Crew, International Space Station. The ridges are labeled as linear dunes with the space in between the interdune flat or sabkha. Ar Rub' al Khali, also called the "Empty Quarter," is a vast region of sand dunes and interdune flats on the Arabian Peninsula. Long, linear sand dunes form perpendicular to the direction of the Shamal winds, which blow from the northwest.
During the monsoon season, the Kharif winds blowing in from the southwest begin to affect the region.
This interaction of the Kharif and Shamal winds can cause the linear dunes to break apart, forming star dunes and crescent-shaped barchan dunes. The long ridges become more ragged and broken up to the northeast in the image.
Ar Rub' al Khali covers roughly 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles) of the Arabian Peninsula, and is the largest continuous sand desert on Earth.
Zooming out from the dunes in Oman to the entire world in space. Music courtesy of Yesh Music. ASCAP.
Where on Earth?