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The red dots mark gas flares in oil fields of Iran and Iraq. The Persian Gulf (left) and the Gulf of Oman (right) were once the site of a rift, an area where two plates of the earth's crust pulled apart from each other.
The Rub al Khali holds about half as much sand as the Sahara Desert. Much of the sediment clouding the water in this image of the Persian Gulf is from the Shatt al Arab River, which enters the Gulf in the north along the Iran-Iraq border.
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Over time, the process reversed, and about 20 million years ago, the gulfs began to close up.
The ongoing collision of the two continental plates resulted in Iran's mountainous terrain (top) and its periodic earthquakes.