Beyond Murray Buttes

Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

It is now the third week in my annual anniversary fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black.

Please consider donating. I am trying to avoid advertising on this website, but will be forced to add it if I do not get enough support from my readers. You can give a one-time contribution, from $5 to $100, or a regular subscription for as little as $2 per month. Your support will be deeply appreciated, and will allow me to continue to report on science and culture freely.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Panorama ahead for Curiosity, Sol 1438

Time for a Curiosity update. Above is a panorama I’ve created from raw images released today from the rover’s left navigation camera of the mesa filled terrain within which Curiosity now sits. Since my last update they have traveled about 200 feet south, moving away from the mesa with the balanced rock

Below the fold is a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image with Curiosity’s path indicated. I have marked the balanced rock with an X, and have indicated with the yellow lines the area covered by the panorama above.

They appear to be aiming due south for the narrow gap between the long ridge-like mesas. This will bring Curiosity out into the open and sloping terrain that can be seen in the distance in the last image of my last update. I suspect they want to get a closer look at those parallel grooves, even if it means the journey will be a little rougher.

Curiosity path beyond Murray Buttes



  • Localfluff

    Robert, you’re a cave enthusiast. Do you have any idea if liquid water on (in) Mars could have had enough time to form caves there too? Not just lava tubes, but caves. How old are caves on Earth?

  • Localfluff:

    1. It is very difficult to date caves on Earth. In fact, in most cases it is impossible. We can make educated guesses, but generally these are just guesses.

    2. On Earth most caves, excluding lava tubes, are formed in limestone, which is created from the shells of sea life. For such sedimentary layers to form on Mars would require significant long term oceans that came and went with a lot of life in them. So far, we have little evidence of this on Mars. There might have been an ocean, but if so it was not there long enough, with enough life (if any) to put down significant calcite layers.

    3. It is conceivable however for caves to form in other ways, on an alien planet. Mars has 1/3 Earth’s gravity. That changes a lot of things. It also appears in many places to have underground water in the form of ice. It is possible that caves could form on Mars in different ways with different materials. It will require real human exploration to find out.

  • Localfluff

    Does there exist any caves in ice caps or in glaciers on Earth?
    I would guess that there are, but that the internal structures of ice masses are quite temporary. Mars does have big seasonal changes. Imagine a cave in CO2 ice. Maybe it would sublimate as you walk through it.

  • wodun

    Once again, great work with the pictures.

  • Localfluff asked: “Does there exist any caves in ice caps or in glaciers on Earth?”

    Yes. many. Do a google search, under images, and I am sure, even without doing it myself, that you will get to see a lot of cool images.

  • Localfluff

    Wow, that’s an exotic world I didn’t know existed. Under our feet, between the Australians and me. “Needle ice extrusions”, that’s so weird.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *