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In celebration of my birthday on February 5, 2023, I am running a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, 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.


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A Martian knife mesa with terraces

A Martian knife mesa with terraces
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 21, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label as a “layered mound.” It also shows a plethora of geological mysteries, all of which relate to the as yet not quite understood geological history of Mars.

First, note the different colors north and south of the ridgeline. According to the science team’s understanding of what these colors mean [pdf], the orange-red to the north suggests dust, while the bluish-green to the south suggests coarser materials, such as rocks and sand. Though frost and ice are generally bluer, such things are generally found on the pole-facing slopes where there is less sunlight. Thus the bluish-green material to the south is unlikely to be ice or frost, though this is not impossible, as the picture was taken in the winter and the latitude is 35 degrees north.

Why however is there such a dichotomy of rocks, sand, and dust between the north and south slopes? And if frost and ice, why is it more prominent to the south, when it should instead be more prominent to the north?

Other mysteries: Is the circular depression on the ridgetop an impact crater or a caldera? If the latter, this suggests the mound is some kind of volcano, likely mud, though lava is not excluded. If so, however, why is there no caldera on top of the ridge to the south?

The location, as shown in the overview map below, reveals other puzzles.

Overview map

The white dot marks the location of this terraced mound, inside an area that some scientists think might have once held an intermittent ocean. If so, did this mound form before, during, or after the existence of that ocean? A first guess would say, assuming this is a mud volcano, that it formed either during or after, as part of the drying-out process, but that is not certain. If a lava volcano it could have formed before, and survived the ocean with little change.

This conclusion of course assumes the ocean itself once existed, which is also uncertain and only theorized based on simulations and the known topography.

Though this location is far enough north, at 35 degrees latitude, for it to have near surface ice present, all the features in the full image appear very dry. Apparently, at this location any ice is underground, and is deep enough that it is not making its presence evident in surface features.

All guesses. This mound is gives us just enough information to allow us to guess, but not know.

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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