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Brain Terrain on Mars

Brain terrain on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! This week the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) science team featured four new captioned images taken by the spacecraft and released as part of the March image dump. The first, dubbed “The Slow Charm of Brain Terrain,” deserves an immediate post on Behind the Black. To the right is only a small section cropped from the full image. From the caption:

You are staring at one of the unsolved mysteries on Mars. This surface texture of interconnected ridges and troughs, referred to as “brain terrain” is found throughout the mid-latitude regions of Mars. (This image is in Protonilus Mensae.)

This bizarrely textured terrain may be directly related to the water-ice that lies beneath the surface. One hypothesis is that when the buried water-ice sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas), it forms the troughs in the ice. The formation of these features might be an active process that is slowly occurring since HiRISE [MRO’s high resolution camera] has yet to detect significant changes in these terrains.

Below is a cropped section of the full image, rotated and reduced to post here.

Overview of brain terrain photo

I have indicated by the white box the section of the image they highlight. The smaller box is the area covered by the image posted by me above.

What immediately struck me in looking at the full image is the two flow features to the southeast of this brain terrain. The larger one in the middle of the image clearly looks like it is pushing its way into this brain terrain. The push was so hard that it formed a moraine in that terrain, which is the v-shaped ridge at the head of this flow.. Since MRO has not detected any changes in this terrain in its more than a decade of observations, this process either occurred quite awhile ago and has apparently since become frozen in place, or is occurring very very slowly, so slowly that in a decade we cannot see a change

If the former, the material here had the texture and malleability of mud when it occurred. If the latter, it more resembles glass, in that it is flowing like a liquid, but doing so slowly you can’t see it happen.

The caption above says this strange geological feature is found throughout the mid-latitude regions of Mars, but this is a very vague statement. I would be more interested in the specific geology where all of these features are found. For example, this particular location is in the transition zone between the southern highlands and the northern lowland plains, an area with many shoreline features scattered about. Is brain terrain always found in that transition zone, which is generally in the mid-latitudes? And if so, is its formation related in some way with those shoreline features and the theorized intermittent ocean that some scientists believe once existed in the Martian northern hemisphere?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted in the air between Columbus and Las Vegas, on the way home,.

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.

One comment

  • David M. Cook

    If someone was standing in a trough, how high would the peaks be above their head? Could you drive a vehicle in here? I think we need to try.

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