Readers!
 

The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.

 

The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.

 

Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.

 

To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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More weird features and changes on Mars

Some strange stuff on Mars
Click for full 2020 photo.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, was taken on September 28, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Uncaptioned and labeled “Reticulate Bedform Change Detection on Arsia Mons West Flank,” it shows a whole bunch of strange features in addition to a change that occurred sometime in the past two years.

I think it also well illustrates in one image how alien Mars is.

The main features in this photo are what scientists have dubbed reticulate bedforms. These features, found mostly in the high elevations on the flanks of the giant volcanoes in the Tharsis Bulge to the west of Valles Marineris, are thought to be ancient dunes made of volcanic dust and debris that has solidified into an aggregate. These dunes are found with a variety of patterns.

Aggregates on the flanks are transported downslope by katabatic winds and form linear and “accordion” morphologies. Materials within the calderas and other depressions remain trapped and are subjected to multidirectional winds, forming an interlinked “honeycomb” texture. In many places on and near the volcanoes, light-toned, low thermal inertia yardangs and indurated surfaces are present.

The photo to the right appears to show all three patterns, even though it is located on the northwestern slopes of of Arsia Mons, the southernmost of the string of three giant volcanoes in the Tharsis Bulge. On the overview map to the right, this photo’s location is indicated by the white box. The black boxes indicate the location of all the pits caves that surround Arsia Mons which I have previously posted about on Behind the Black.

It is intriguing that, at least at this point, these particular reticulate bedforms on the slopes of Arsia Mons happen to be in a region where few cave pits have so far been identified. It could be that the conditions that form each are mutually exclusive. If you get pits on the slopes of Martian volcano you can’t have reticulate bedforms. Or maybe not all the pits have yet been located, or the flanks of the volcano has many more reticulate bedforms that I simply have not documented.

Either way, this particular cool image has two areas of interest, as noted by the white boxes above.

Image from October 2018 before change
Click for full October 2018 photo.

Hardened dunes with decaying tops

The first, near the top, highlights the detected change that occurred sometime in the past two Earth years. The arrows in the 2020 photo above point to the same two distinct mounds in the 2018 photo to the right. Between these mounts a large dark slope streak has appeared.

As I have previously described, slope streaks are a unique phenomenon of Mars that remain unexplained. Though they look like avalanches, they do nothing to change the topography and show no evidence of material falling downslope. Instead, they appear to be a stain that suddenly moves downward, triggered it appears by some disturbance at the top, such as a rockfall.

The second photo to the right focuses in on the larger reticulate bedforms near the bottom of the first image. Not only do they not appear to follow any pattern, one ridge has some distinct holes at its peak. On Earth such holes could be created in hardened sand when rain hits it. The sand is easily washed away, and can form pits.

There is no rain on Mars. Why this particular ridge has that collection of holes is therefore a mystery.

But then, the slope streak to the north is a mystery as well. As I concluded in my first slope streak post,

The bottom line, as noted in one paper, “The processes that form slope streaks remain obscure. No proposed mechanism readily accounts for all of their observed characteristics and peculiarities.”

Mars is strange. Mars is alien. Mars epitomizes the universe in all its glory.

That last line applies to almost everything we see on Mars, not just its slope streaks.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

One comment

  • Max

    I love looking over these Mars pictures.
    Some of my observations;
    The dark streaks in the first picture have impact crater anomalies that “block” the flow of darkness (streak wetness?) appearing like “Pitts” outgassing below the holes. (I see two nearly flat impact holes that look like shotgun splatter. Unusual)

    In the more recent picture where slope streaks are gone, I could only find one streak on the edge of the picture between the two lava flows. You have to zoom in because it’s not very big, but it is dark.
    I wonder if under ground fluid, frozen, rising to the surface during a warm day. Enough to make it wet, but not enough to cause erosion. it reminds me of fine oil, that evaporates not leaving a residue.
    I doubt that it’s water, water dissolves minerals and would leave it as a crust, that appears white on the surface.

    The pits at the top of the frozen dune appears at least a dozen times in the original picture. Another extreme case, as the one that is pictured, appears in the lower left.
    I believe your descriptions are correct, a hardened surface being eaten away so the loose sand beneath can blow away. Looking at the other Sand dunes in area… what would’ve been their pointed tops are collapsed inwards forming valleys at the tops of most of the dunes. They collapsed ages ago and no longer look dramatic as the ones that catch your eye.

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