Before and after: Turning Iceland and Jordan into Mars for BBC's new series The Planets

Using VFX effects, the makers of Professor Brian Cox's space series transformed the world's rockiest landscapes and deserts into otherworldly planets. Here's an exclusive look at how they did it...

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BBC Two's The Planets has stormed onto screens, taking us on a visually-thrilling journey through the solar system.

VFX company Lola Post Production used images of planet Earth's most impressively vast sites to help create a model of each planet's surface - mainly the rocky terrains of Iceland and Norway, Lanzarote's volcanoes and the great expanses of sand covering Oman and Jordan.

Combining them with imagery and data recorded by space probes on the planets themselves, the images of Earth helped to create accurate interpretations of what it'd be like if we really could wander around Mars or Saturn.

Here's a little look at the sites they used, and how they transformed them...

Iceland becomes Mars


Iceland's natural environment makes a great base for imagining the surface of our closest neighbour in the solar system.

Here, Hella and Dettifoss waterfalls were transformed into Mars' volcanic landscape.


Mars, during it's volcanic periods, was a fiery mix of ice, water, volcanic activity and rock. Waterfalls towered up to four kilometres tall.

Imagined is Mars' landscape, nearly 4 billion years ago.


An important moment in planetary history was imagined on the backdrop of Reynisfjara Beach, in the fishing town of Vik, in the south of Iceland.

Jagged rocks, towering cliffs and black sand line the coast. It's certainly dramatic - and has also been used for Game Of Thrones filming.


In The Planets, it helps depict a violent time in the early history of Mars and Earth - when asteroids struck the planets.

Fortunately, these asteroids are what brought a lot of the water currently on our planet. 

Jordan becomes Mars


We think this seems an obvious choice: Wadi Rum, Jordan is a popular filming location for TVs and movies.

For otherworldly filming, Wadi Rum fairly closely resembles the actual colour of modern-day Mars' desert. 


In the show, Wadi Rum helps show NASA's Curiosity Rover, which landed in August 2012, surveying the planet's surface.

Iceland becomes Saturn's moon, Enceladus


Also in Vik in southern Iceland is Sólheimajökull, an impressive glacier between the volcanoes Katla and Eyjafjallajökull.

Ideal for expeditions, given that its one of Iceland's more accessible glaciers, it's ridges and peaks make it a dramatic location.


Saturn, often thought of as the 'most beautiful' planet in our solar system, is made up almost completely of gasses: hydrogen and helium, mostly.

It wasn't always that way. Saturn started out as a planet of ice and rock. Its rings are still made of rock and ice. 

Here, the CGI work shows one of Saturn's moons being ripped apart to form a ring.

Lanzarote becomes Mercury


Recording imagery for Venus and Mercury took the filmmakers to Montaña Colorada in Lanzarote, Spain.

The national park is painted in lush shades of sandy brown, terracotta and green. Here, we see the dark soil at the bottom of a volcano.


Mercury has always been hot, thanks to its proximity to the sun. Some four billion years ago, it was a lava-flowing, volcanic hotbed.  

Here, we can see one of the glowing volcanic craters.

Lanzarote becomes Venus


The Lanzarote filming trip didn't end there, but continued to Timanfaya National Park - where there are more than 100 volcanoes.


This CGI shot was used to show a recreation of the first colour photo the world had ever seen of Venus' surface. Taken in 1982, soviet spacecraft Venera 13 sent the first images home.

The Planets, hosted by Professor Brian Cox, comes to BBC Two on Tuesdays

More incredible images:

See NASA's satellite images of outer space

What does Earth look like from space?

12 of Earth's most wonderful landscapes

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