The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.


The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.


Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.


To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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Enigmatic channel on Mars

Enigmatic channel on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on October 26, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and labeled by the science team as simply an “Enigmatic Channel in Syrtis Major.”

It shows a channel going downhill to the northeast east in a series of steps, separated cliffs that in the southwest hikers call pour-offs, with the channel becoming initially deeper and then slowly becoming more shallow, until the next pour-off. On Earth the pour-offs would be waterfalls, with a deep pond at the base. On Mars?

Without doubt this channel poses mysteries, but maybe with a little research we can make it less enigmatic. Asl always, the overview map below gives context, and helps give a possible explanation for what created this channel.

Overview map

The red box marks the channel’s location, on the edge of the giant lava field formed by the shield volcano Syrtis Major Planum, one of Mars least dramatic looking shield volcanoes which ironically was the first documented surface feature identified on another planet, discovered by Christiaan Huygens during his observations of Mars in 1659.

This shield volcano is thought to have been active about 3 billion years ago, give or take a half billion. The impact that created Isidis Basin to the east took place afterward.

This channel therefore probably marks lava flows from that ancient volcano, though we must recognize the large uncertainty here.

A side note: Tomorrow the American rover Perseverance will attempt its landing in Jezero Crater, only 400 miles to the northeast.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.


  • DP979


    This feature is very similar to subsurface erosional features on Earth. For instance, upgradient erosion related to groundwater discharge at springs produces these features. A really good example of this is process is Horsethief Spring west of the San Pedro River and east of Sierra Vista in SE Arizona. There are several examples in the same region.

  • Greg the Geologist

    If that’s the case, the geological term would be “piping”. While I’m at it, congratulations to the Perseverance team! “Jezero Base here . . . “

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