Mars or the UAE?

Space is big news right now, with the up-coming Emirates Mission to Mars, and Mars Science City in Dubai. But sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between here and there. Take our quick quiz and test your powers of observation.

Harsh, arid, seemingly devoid of water or any form of life. In this sense, the planet Mars and some of the more desolate areas of the UAE may have much in common.

Through a camera lens, telling the difference between the Red Planet and the red rocks of Ras Al Khaimah and Al Ain is even harder.

The reality is that they are very different environments. Mars, barely a quarter the size of Earth and further from the Sun, basks in a balmy 30°c in its warmest regions, compared to the high 40s of the UAE, but at its coldest the planet plunges to -125°c.

With an atmosphere 100 times thinner than Earth, and composed of 95 per cent carbon dioxide, Mars has so far been found to be devoid of life.

Despite its harsh climate, the UAE is home to hundreds of species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish, many of whom had adapted to survive and thrive here.

And while there is plentiful evidence that water once flowed through the deserts and gullies of Mars, it still remains to be discovered.

By contrast, the winter rains of the UAE bring and sustain life in all its variety. Still, the appearance of some parts of the country to alien worlds is striking. After all, the sands of the Liwa are better known to millions of Star Wars fans as the planet Jakku from The Force Awakens.

Some of the images below were captured by Nasa rovers as they explore the surface of Mars. Others were taken by The National’s team of intrepid photographers back here in the UAE.

See if you can tell the difference. Red Planet or RAK?

(This background is the UAE, by the way. The previous image was Mars)

Mars

This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows honeycomb textured landforms on the Hellas Planitia in the southern hemisphere.

UAE

These are the rocky slopes of Jebel Jais in RAK, at 1,938 meters, the highest mountain in the UAE.

Mars

The foothills of Mount Sharp, taken near the end of 2016. Nasa has since sent the Curiosity Rover to explore deeper in these peaks.

UAE

This is the edge of the Empty Quarter or Rub' Al Khali near Liwa as seen on Google Earth.

Mars

Marathon Valley, taken by the Opportunity Rover in 2015. Opportunity landed in 2004 and is still going strong. We are cheating a bit here. Nasa has used false colours to make the differences in surface materials easier to see.

Mars

This region known as "Murray's Butte" was captured by Curiosity late in 2016.

UAE

This distinctly shaped rock formation can be found on Jebel Hafeet near Al Ain.

UAE

This is a slope in Leopard Canyon in Ras Al Khaimah.

Mars

Veins of minerals can be seen in the rocks on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. The photograph was taken in 2015

Mars

Astronomers have dubbed a region of Mars as Terra Arabia because of its many sand dunes. This is Perseverance Valley on the rim of the giant Endurance Crater.

UAE

These are the dunes of the Empty Quarter, familiar to Star Wars fans as the planet Jakku

Mars photographs courtesy Nasa

UAE photographs by The National, Google Earth