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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

A bubbly cauldron on the surface of Mars

A bubbly cauldron on the surface of Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on December 20, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a strange terrain of craters and mounds, with all the mounds having pits within them like volcanic calderas. In between the surface has a two-toned stippled look, as if two different materials are in the process of mixing.

My immediate impression was that of the bubbly surface of a vat of tomato sauce simmering. Or maybe the vile mixture created by the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which as they mix they chant:

First witch:
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Of course, this is not a vat of witch’s brew or tomato sauce. It is the surface of the planet Mars, but an alien surface nonetheless.

Overview map

The red dot in the northern part of Chryse Planitia on the overview map to the right marks the location of this weird terrain.

This is in the northern mid-latitudes, where scientists have found a lot of evidence of glacial features. In the lowland plains however they have instead find lots of features that suggest a near surface underground ice table. Here, it appears that underground ice has periodically sublimated into gas, producing the equivalent of mud and ice shield volcanoes. Some of the craters might even be burst bubbles of gas, not impact craters.

The darker material in the surrounding terrain appears to be a later flow that has covered the lighter material. Subsequent impacts violently excavated this buried lighter material and splattered it on top of the dark material, as seen by the light material surrounding the crater in the middle right of the picture.

As always, Mars in close-up is not Earth, but a place with an alien geology waiting for humans to explore.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

Readers: the rules for commenting!


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