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Colorful mesa in the Martian northern lowland plains

Colorful mound in Martian northern lowland plains
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here and taken on January 15, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows the colorful top of a small mesa in the northern lowland plains of Mars and about 300 miles north of the planned landing zone for Europe’s Franklin rover, scheduled to launch in 2022.

What makes this mesa stand out is the bright and colorful areas on its slopes. The colors are false, but they indicate [pdf] certain things. The yellow is likely dust covered rock. The pinkish rock is also likely dust-covered, but made up of coarser material. The bluish strip running along the mesa’s northern slope is possibly frost or ice, not unlikely as this mound is at 25 degrees north latitude and was taken during winter. The slope faces north, which would put it in shadow much of the time during winter.

The colors however only hint at what is there.

Overview map

MRO context camera image of same area
Click for full image.

The location of today’s image is indicated by the black cross on the overview map to the right. An earlier captioned image of a similar mound to the south of this one, marked by the white cross, noted the same diversity of colors that suggest the existence of “diverse mineral compositions.”

Nor are these mesas unique. The wider view of this same area by MRO’s context camera to the right shows that there are numerous such bright mesas in this region. The black square marks the area covered by the first photo above.

The geological process that formed these mounds is at present not clearly understood. They could be made of material that is more resistant to erosion. Or maybe we are merely seeing the peaks of older larger mountains that over time became buried by ice and dust and debris.

Or maybe neither of these explanations is right. We just don’t have enough information.


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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