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My February birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black it now over. I sincerely and with deep gratitude thank all those who donated. Without your support I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. For those who did not contribute during the campaign, please consider adding your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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. Donate through Gabpay, using my email address zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

3. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

4. 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
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Craters in slush on Mars

Dust devil steak across a slushy plain on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on October 27, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It was taken not for any particular research project, but as one of the periodic images the camera team needs to take maintain the camera’s proper temperature. When they need to do this, they often will take a picture in an area not previously viewed at high resolution. Sometimes the image is boring. Sometimes they photograph some geology that is really fascinating, and begs for some young scientist to devote some effort to studying it.

In this case the photo was of the generally featureless northern lowland plains. What the image shows us is a scattering of impact craters that appear to have cut into a flat plain likely saturated with ice very close to the surface.

How can I conclude so confidently that these craters impacted into ice close to the surface? The location gives it away.

Overview map

The photo’s location is shown by the white dot in the center of the overview map to the right. The red marks indicate other MRO high resolution images. As you can see, very few high resolution images have been taken in this area, which is why the camera team probably took it, to help fill this gap.

At 52 degrees northern latitude, this spot is high in the mid-latitude bands where scientists have detected much evidence of glacial ice. Some of that evidence are the ice scarps found only 110 miles to the northeast inside Milankovič Crater.

Then there is the Starship prime candidate landing zone about 660 miles to the southwest in Arcadia Planitia, with the Erebus Mountains about 150 to 200 miles beyond to the west. This icy region is where one scientist has said, “I think you could dig anywhere to get your water ice.”

Many of these small craters are probably secondary impacts from the event that created Milankovič Crater. Looking closely at the full image we can see what appears two scattered impact events. The many small impacts from the earlier event are now faded with time and erosion. The newer event produced the sharper craters that appear to have plunged into slushy ice.

Wider image in the same region
Click for full image.

Then there is the red streak that cuts across the photo. This is almost certainly a dust devil track. Red in MRO color strips usually indicates dust [pdf], while the blue likely indicates ice.

The image to the right, cropped to post here, was taken by MRO’s context camera and covers a wider area in the same general region. You can see many such dust devil tracks cutting across this mostly featureless plain. There is also a hint that the tracks are repeating over the same tracks, a phenomenon of favoring specific ground and seen elsewhere on Mars and not at present completely understood.

As always, even a relatively boring place on Mars yields fascinating mysteries.

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.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


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