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A lonely dry lava spring on Mars

A lonely dry lava spring on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image from Mars takes us to the southern flank of the giant volcano Pavonis Mons. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, shows what appears to be a volcanic vent from more than a billion years ago when it is believed Pavonis was actively erupting. The picture was taken on March 2, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The grade is mostly downhill to the east and south east.

It is very possible that this is the resurgence of a lava tube, the point where the underground flow either emerged to the surface or got so close to the surface that the ceiling was thin enough to later collapse, creating this depression. No pits or skylights are visible in this high resolution picture, however, so whether there is an underground lava tube here is not known, an unknown that is amplified by the wider MRO context camera image below.

Context camera view of lava vent
Click for full image.

Overview map

This vent is the only truly distinct feature for miles around. The lack of craters indicates that this terrain is a relatively young lava plain. So does its relatively smoothness, which is even more striking if you look at the full context camera image. Other than a handful of other small vent depressions (all of which appear to be on the top of indistinct mounds), the surrounding countryside is practically featureless. Once, long ago in the past this was a sheet of slowly flowing molten lava that froze smoothly like ice.

The smooth terrain also shows no evidence of an underground lava tube uphill from the vent. Downhill the string of depressions suggests there is a tube below ground, but with no evident skylight into that void. The adjacent context camera image to the east shows a similar smooth terrain, with this string of depressions slowly fading away as if the tube was overwhelmed by the larger flow around it.

The overview map to the right shows this vent’s location by the white dot. The black dots indicate all the pits so far photographed by MRO’s high resolution camera that I have previously featured on Behind the Black.

Understanding the volcanic lava processes that took place when these volcanoes were active is going to take many decades of research, much of it required on the Martian surface. The lower Martian gravity changed things in ways that while resembling volcanic processes on Earth, also included some fundamental differences that are hard to decipher from orbital images.

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.

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