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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


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

Brain terrain in and around pedestal crater on Mars

Brain terrain in and around a pedestal crater on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on March 10, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

As I noted in a cool image only two weeks ago, brain terrain is a geological feature wholly unique to Mars that planetary geologists still do not understand or can explain. They know its knobby interweaving nodules (resembling the convolutions of the human brain) are related to near surface ice and its sublimation into gas, but no one has much confidence in any of the theories that posit the process that forms it.

In this case the brain terrain not only fills the crater, it appears to surround it as well, but only appearing at spots where a smooth top layer has begun to break apart. Moreover, the crater appears to be a pedestal crater, whereby much of the less dense surrounding terrain has vanished, leaving the compacted crater sitting higher.

Overview map

The black dot south of Reull Valles on the overview map to the right marks the location of this crater, in a region where many glacial features are found, both in Reull and on the flanks of the surrounding mountains.

This picture in many ways might actually give us a potential explanation for brain terrain, which here only appears where the smooth top layer has either disappeared or broken, exposing the ice below. That newly exposed ice then sublimates away as a gas in a random manner, leaving behind the strange brain terrain in its wake.

This of course is a pure guess, and is hardly a real explanation. The alien components involved — the light Martian gravity, its cold and very thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and the poorly understood behavior of water and ice in these circumstances — make any theory very uncertain. Any hypothesis put forth by a non-geologist like myself should be taken with less seriousness.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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