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A spray of Martian meteorites

A spray of small secondary impacts
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on October 26, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is what the camera team calls a “terrain sample,” meaning it was not specifically requested by a researcher but was instead chosen by the camera team because they need to regularly take images to maintain the camera’s temperature. When they do this, they try to pick a location that hasn’t been photographed in high resolution previously, and that might have some interesting features. Sometimes the photo is boring. Sometimes they hit pay dirt.

In this case, the photo captured an small impact crater, about 1,300 feet across, surrounded by a spray of secondary impacts. The color portion of the image shows what I suspect are dust devil tracks cutting across a surface that, because of its blue tint, is either rough or has frost or ice within it. At 48 degrees north latitude, the possibility of the latter is high, especially because this location is northwest of the Erebus mountains, where SpaceX has its prime Starship candidate landing zone and where scientists suspect ice is readily available very close to the surface. The overview map below shows this context.

Wide Overview map

This crater’s location, indicated by the black box, is also 250 miles southwest of 74-mile-wide Milankovic Crater, where scientists have discovered numerous scarps with almost pure ice layers exposed.

The spray of small secondary impacts surrounding this small crater in the first image above likely came from the central impact. The central impact however could very well be a secondary impact itself, ejecta thrown off by the bolide that smacked into Mars to create Milankovic.

The hypothesis is reinforced by taking a look at the immediately surrounding terrain.

Context camera overview
Click for full image.

To the right is a wider view, with the white box showing the location of the top image. It was taken by MRO’s context camera. As you can see, this small impact crater is only one of many, scattered across a relatively smooth and flat region interspersed with what look like small volcanoes.

All of the small craters look to be about the same age. Moreover, that there are no large or more eroded craters here suggests that the small volcanoes, which either formed from magma or mud pushing upward, had covered over the older terrain, became inactive, and then the Milankovic impact occurred, showering this region with secondary material.

One last item: Note the nature of the small secondary craters in the first image. All look like the kind of depression you see when you drop a stone into slushy ice. The bright blue color of the material in the secondary craters in the color strip also suggests ice.

This shouldn’t be surprising. At this high latitude, north of what is believed to be a very icy region near the Erebus Mountains, ice should be plentiful, just before the surface.

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 available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can 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. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


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


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