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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:


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Curiosity in the valley of Gediz Vallis

Curiosity's view on sol 3576 (August 28, 2022)
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

The panorama above was created by Curiosity’s right navigation camera on August 28, 2022, and shows the strangely paved Martian terrain directly in front of the rover now that it is inside the valley of Gediz Vallis, scattered flat rocks interspersed with dust. The yellow lines in the overview map to the right indicates the area covered by this panorama. The red dotted line indicates the rover’s likely future route to circle around the small mesa Chenapua.

The paved rocks however may not be separate, but merely covered in their low spots by dust. What makes these light rocks significant is that they appear to be the first close examples of the sulfate-bearing layer that the rover has seen in the higher reaches of Mount Sharp since it landed in Gale Crater more than ten years ago. You can see this bright layer clearly in the distance in a panorama taken by Curiosity in June 2021. The rover has now finally reached it, and is about to delve into another layer in the geological history of Mars, a layer that appears easily weathered and carved by the thin Martian atmosphere.

Other details in this panorama are of important note. In the overview map, I have indicated that a recurring slope lineae is supposed to exist on the cliff face of the mesa dubbed Orinoco. These lineae, seen from orbit, appear to be streaks on slopes that come and go seasonally. No one has come up with a theory to explain them, though the most favored theory today says they are staining dust flows of some kind.

However, if you click on the panorama and zoom in on the cliff face of Orinoco, you will see an incredibly rough rocky terrain. It seems impossible for any streak of any kind to flow down this cliff anywhere, suggesting that the streaks might possibly be like the rays that radiate out from craters on the Moon, visible only from orbit and invisible on the surface.

The marker layer is another important geological target, now almost within reach. This flat layer is found in many places on the flanks of Mount Sharp, all at about the same approximate elevation. It is distinctly flat and relatively smooth. Knowing why it stands out so differently from the layers above and below will help geologists better write the geological history of this Martian mountain and the crater in which it sits.

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.


  • GaryMike

    Astronomy has always been my thing. It defines me.

    I took to geology over a very long period of time. It required many field trips and quite a few really good teachers for me to “get it”..

    Rocks can’t talk, but they can speak to those able to listen.

    I’m not much of a philosopher, but to me that top picture is saying “Home”.

  • Jeff

    Dr. Abigail Fraeman’s tweet has (unofficially?) nicknamed this as “Marker Band Valley”.

    GaryMike – understand your sentiment, but hope it doesn’t become “home” for the rover, more of a rest stop or a way point on this exciting mission. 8^)

  • GaryMike

    I don’t know. Maybe teleport me there to be with the rover and maybe I can apply sentiment to convince it to stay home.

    Rover, my love, you’re now one of “us”. We belong here. It’s who we are, for the moment…um, forever.

    Home is where “us” are.

  • GaryMike

    Off topic:

    From Jeff’s twitter link above.

    Holy …. (insert your preferred explicative here).

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