Scroll down to read this post.


Without the support of my readers I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. If you wish to add your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, you can do so in any one of the following ways:


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 confused river of ice on Mars

A river of ice on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on March 4, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what MRO’s science team labeled a “Landform in Source Region of Harmakhis Vallis.”

They are being very correct and careful with that label. The landform here is quite clearly reminiscent of a glacier, but because they don’t yet have confirmation of its watery nature, as good scientists they can’t call it that.

I however am a mere journalist, so I am free to speculate more wildly. Sure looks like glaciers to me, the ice flowing downhill from the left to the right and flowing around that central mound.

The overview map below gives a wider context, but also makes the behavior of the glaciers here far more puzzling.

Overview map

CTX image
Click for full image.

The white rectangle marks the location of today’s image, inside the long riverlike canyon Harmakhis Valles that flows down into Hellas Basin. The three numbered red boxes mark previous cool images posted by me:

All these photos, including today’s, show similar glacial features. All are located near the upstream source of the Harmakhis Valles. All are at 37 to 38 degrees south latitude, and are in the region scientists have dubbed “East Hellas” that appears to be one of several regions on Mars filled with glaciers that “contain nearly pure ice under a debris cover.”

The overview above suggests that the downhill grade at this location should be to the west into Hellas Basin, not to the east as it appears in the image above. The wider image to the right, taken by MRO’s context camera and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, increases the mystery. At this point the entire Harmakhis Valles canyon appears blocked by a wall. To the east of that scarp the flows seem to head east, while to the west they seem to flow west.

I don’t claim to understand this. At first glance it appears that some of the material west of that scarp, in the area indicated by the letter “B”, are thick glaciers flowing downhill to the west. Why those glaciers however should have become so abruptly eroded at that wall so that the remaining ice to the east flows in the opposite direction makes no sense to me.

Moreover, the glaciers west of the cliff in the area marked by the letter “A” do seem to flow down to the east, the same as those glaciers below the cliff.

I suspect that in order to decipher the features here will require a careful and very wide analysis of all the flows in Harmakhis Valles in this region to map out all their flow directions. In total the glacial flow should be to the west into Hellas Basin, but locally the flow patterns are clearly much more complex.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Lee Stevenson

    Bob, a ( non political question for a change!) , You are a big advocate for many features on Mars being the result of glacial activity. I do not disagree with you, but do you believe that Mars was ever “wet”? Or that the features we see that are obviously created by water are the result of localised events ( volcanism, meteor impacts, )
    It is clear from your narrative regarding these features you have a theory behind your comments… I would be fascinated ( as I’m sure everyone here would be!) To hear it in one lump, as apposed to small slices on your (great!) “Cool images”

  • wayne

    When I read the word “ice,” as it relates to Mars, what exactly are we talking about?
    Is this water-ice, or what?

  • Lee Stevenson

    @wayne… This will be water ice, there is carbon dioxide ice at the poles, but it is mostly seasonal, and sits on the surface making everything look pretty and christmassy. Mars is almost at the point where water can be liquid, indeed, if laden with salts, which lower the freezing point, it is possible that liquid water could exist briefly on the surface of Mars, ( my personal favourite explanation for the “dark streaks” on the cliffs of Mars is a frozen ancient aquifer, occasionally melting a little ).

    An interesting read on the subject can be found here

  • Lee Stevenson: I am not an “advocate,” I have no theories, and I am not pushing “a narrative” (Oh how I hate that new journalism term). I am only reporting what I am gathering from the planetary scientists who are studying Mars, reinforced by what I see with my own eyes in the images sent back by MRO.

    If you are asking whether Mars ever had liquid water, the jury is still out. Many of Mars geological features strongly suggest yes, but no one has come up with a model that allows for liquid water on the surface at any time in the past that convinces many scientists. The planet’s atmosphere is too thin and cold, and they can’t come up with any scenario that made it warmer and thicker in the far past that really seems to work.

    Right now it is impossible for liquid water to exist on the surface, for more than a very short few minutes, at most. Ice sublimates directly to a gas. The data on the various slope streaks and recurring slope lineae has increasingly pointed in the last year or so to dust as the cause, not water.

    The cool images I post routinely show features that look exactly like glacial features seen on Earth. The radar data routinely confirms underground ice at such features. This is not my “narrative” or “theory,” but the conclusion of most of the scientists who study Mars. I have come to generally accept it, though like them I recognize that skepticism is still called for.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Wow! Bob, chill! I was only asking for your opinion on what happened to Mars, and if it ever had liquid water. You are much better informed regarding Mars than myself, and while we might disagree politically, I admire your space related journalism greatly. We all want there to be a “warm, wet” Mars in its past, where life might have thrived, but you point out in your posts that it is possible that many features there could be caused by glaciers rather than wet water.

    Sorry for asking, and I’m sorry if the terms I used triggered you… It was not my intention, I was only asking for the wisdom of someone more knowledgeable than I.

  • Lee Stevenson: Heh. You didn’t “trigger” me. Only “woke” leftists looking to shut up dissent get triggered. I simply tried to answer your question, while also making sure that others reading the discussion would understand exactly where I am coming from. Your comments implied things about my work that aren’t true, and needed to be corrected.

    As for your comment “We all want there to be a ‘warm, wet’ Mars in the past,” speak for yourself. I don’t “want” any particular scientific result. That is exactly not how science works. I want to know what actually happened. To go into this research “wanting” a result is guaranteed to result in poor research.

    The question of water on Mars is one of the big scientific mysteries of our time, like dark matter, but possibly far more interesting. That so few science journalists, as well as too many ordinary people interested in planetary research, understand it properly bothers me terribly.

  • wayne

    As I understand it–this water-ice is loaded with various perchlorates. Bad for earth-based life as we know it but on the upside– more oxygen therein to extract.

  • Wayne: The perchlorates might not be that much of a problem. We need to get there and actually do tests. Many of the underground ice layers detected so far appear to be very pure, which would be very good.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.,
    Thank you.

  • pawn

    I find it fascinating that the evidence of ice on the surface and the climate models diverge. One is right and the other is wrong. It is truly a modern scientific mystery. For models to have any validity they must explain the observations. But exactly what are we observing? Nobody really knows. Honest scientists understand and accept this as being the true reality. This is what drives science.

  • wayne

    “Perchlorate on Mars (2013)
    Samuel P. Kounaves
    Lead scientist Phoenix Mars Lander Wet Chemistry Lab.

  • wayne

    I was looking for Venus stuff, and this popped up–>

    “Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues”
    June 2016, Day 1 Session 2-4
    The Geological Society

    (Day 2 Session 3: –> “Gullies, volatiles – CO2 and ices)
    (Day 1 Session 4: –> “CO2, gully processes and experiments)

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Bob , quote “As for your comment “We all want there to be a ‘warm, wet’ Mars in the past,” speak for yourself. I don’t “want” any particular scientific result. “…
    . I also follow the science, I accept the result of our exploration, and the scientific results that flow. But unless you are some form of android, I have no doubt you would be jumping around your desk, just as I and everyone else here would, if a rover returned a photo of a Mars trilobite. You do not have to be some kind of denier of science to hope for a particular outcome. You just have to accept the evidence, even if it disappoints. I personally, am awaiting the picture of a Marion fossil. I might be waiting forever….. But come on Bob… Tell me you haven’t thought how cool it would be to see a bed of crinoid stems lying all over the base of an eroded Martian cliff?

  • Lee Stevenson

    ( not Marion , Martian)

  • Lee Stevenson

    @wayne… As you know, I rarely do YouTube .. but it seems you have posted some stuff right in my wheelhouse! Thank you!

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “To go into this research ‘wanting’ a result is guaranteed to result in poor research.

    This is a good source of confirmation bias.

    To add to, or perhaps to clarify, pawn’s comment: models are not reality (don’t confuse the map for the territory). If a model is created that explains how there could have been liquid water on Mars, it does not mean that there really was liquid water on the surface.

  • Edward wrote, ” If a model is created that explains how there could have been liquid water on Mars, it does not mean that there really was liquid water on the surface.”

    Excellent point. One of the problems that I think has hindered Mars research has been the desire to “want” liquid water on the surface, thus resulting in many models calling for it, even though no one has so far found a way to make it plausible. This desire is based on what we as Earthling see there, on Mars, features like meandering canyons and drainage patterns and large lowland plains resembling dry ocean bottoms that to us immediately invoke the need for liquid water, because to us on Earth, that’s what causes such canyons and drainage patterns.

    Mars however is not the Earth. We don’t know enough about it to make such assumptions (one by the way that I accepted as well until about four years ago). The recent data suggesting widespread glaciers and ice is percolating through the planetary society that is studying Mars, and is beginning to raise questions. I say this based on many conversations with scientists as well as the many recent papers I have highlighted here on BtB.

    I strongly suspect that more than a few planetary geologists are beginning to consider the possibility that these features were formed by glaciers and ice, not liquid water. A few have published papers proposing this, but only a few. The data and theoretical work is not rich enough yet to be sure about this. However, if the data continues to point as it has been, we will start to see such work appearing in the scientific literature, in only a few years.

    However, I must add a story. Among cavers there is a saying: “The cave will do what the cave wants to do.” You might want to find miles of virgin passage, and the geology and survey data might suggest there is such passage just past the next squeeze, but you have no guarantees. The cave will do what the cave wants to do.

    The same can be said of Mars, or of any area of scientific research. You propose theories, but must always let the data rule. Always.

  • pawn

    Many people believe in ghosts.

  • Greg the Geologist

    What gets my attention are the complex scarps west of the pictured mound. Their separation from the flatter terrain, and the apparent downdropping of the intervening “graben”, may or may not be genetically related to the movement of (probable) ice. Really interesting problem!

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

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