The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.


The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.


Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.


To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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Another “What the heck?!” image on Mars

Click for full image.

Today’s cool image, taken on September 2, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and cropped and reduced to post here, is one that I will make very little attempt to explain. It falls into a category I call “What the heck?!” The uncaptioned website labels this “Ringed Ridges in Kasei Valles”, which merely describes what we see.

This isn’t an impact crater. The rings don’t fit any morphology I’ve ever seen for such features.

Could we be looking at some type of glacial feature? The latitude, 29 degrees north, makes this unlikely but possible. Even so, it sure doesn’t look like it. The ripples in the center and between the ridges are sand dunes, not glacial features.

Might this be a volcanic vent, with the concentric ridges marking multiple eruptions? Maybe, but if so I’ve never seen any volcanic vent or caldera that looked quite like this.

The overview map below gives some context, but hardly explains anything.

Overview map

The white box north of the main channels of Kasei Valles marks the location of this strange feature.

The one major driving geological process that is thought to have shaped the Kasei Valley is that of one or more catastrophic floods, over many millions of years. One hypothesis [pdf] even suggests a large ice dam had formed across the canyon just before it turns east, creating a large lake that when the dam broke rushed eastward, creating the canyon’s braided channels.

Unfortunately, I can’t reconcile such floods with the strange concentric ridges above. The rings just don’t seem to have been formed or even reshaped by a catastrophic flood.

So what made this? While I suppose volcanism is the best guess, it is not one I have much enthusiasm for. My readers are welcome to make their own guesses, but I guarantee we will all be likely wrong in some manner.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.


  • Ken

    Robert, I think it must be a much eroded & sand-covered volcanic remnant. Take a look on Google Earth at the lower left corner of Egypt where it borders Libya – definitely ancient rocky caldera & not dissimilar in shape.

    As you said… probably wrong!

  • Jeff Wright

    Wormsign…the spice must flow!

  • eddie willers

    What the heck, indeed.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d advise whoever it was to see a dermatologist.

  • Lee Stevenson

    It reminds me of a mud volcano….. although I cannot really think of how a mud volcano could form, as this area once was almost definatly wet in the past, perhaps there is some possible geological process?

  • Kenneth

    It reminds me of the way ice forms over a spring in a lake. The center would be the last to freeze with the water pushing up. Maybe it formed in the past and is now covered with sand.

  • Allen

    About 1500m from the center of the “feature” at a bearing of ~45 degrees relative to the top of the page is an additional curious feature. I see a structure that is roughly “U” shaped with sharply defined ~95 degree angles off of the base. What geological processes could produce such a structure?

  • Allen: First, we should mention to the readers that this feature is visible in the full image, not in the cropped photo I featured.

    Second, my guess is that we are looking at three depressions produced by faults. The ground is cracked, and material sinks at the breaks.

    It is not unusual to see depressions with sharp angles like this on either Mars or Earth. There is even a geological term for them, dubbed grabens.

  • I should add that these cracks suggest again that the central ringed structure is volcanic. As it pushed upward, it cracked the ground around it.

  • Jeff Wright

    It might have started as a Maar type eruption with ice dunes freezing into place with wind building up the rim-maybe seiche slosh and some creep too?

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