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Brain terrain in Mars’ glacier country

Brain terrain in glacier country
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on February 10, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

It shows what planetary scientists have dubbed “brain terrain”, a truly unique Martian geological feature that is not found on Earth and also remains as yet unexplained. Specifically, the brain terrain is the speckled areas between the larger flow features, all of which are probably ice or glacier related.

What especially drew me to this MRO image however was the particular flow feature in the center left that looks like either a giant squid or something out of Lovecraft horror short story. Talk about a cool image!

The downward grade here is likely to the north, as this spot is inside a north-south canyon, cutting into the southern cratered highlands. The general north-south trend of the depression here reinforce this supposition.

The overview image below provides context.

Overview map

The red dot marks the location of this image in Protonilus Mensae, a region of Mars I dub “glacier country” because almost every image, like the one above, shows evidence of buried glaciers or ice.

The origin of brain terrain is not the only mystery here. Explaining the wild shapes of these flow features is in itself a bafflement. They might reflect the underground topography that the ice covers, but if so that topography has got to be stranger than expected. The shapes also might reflect the chaotic nature of ice sublimating away over time.

Either way, this location will likely have readily accessible ice for future Martian colonists, though any travel through this rough glacier country is likely going to require larger versions of Ingenuity, capable of carrying people and mining equipment.

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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