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In celebration of my birthday on February 5, 2023, I am running a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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Erosion at the edge of Mars’ biggest volcanic ash field

Erosion at the edge of Mars' biggest ash field
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 13, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is another fine example of the wind-blown sculpted terrain that one finds routinely in Mars’ largest volcanic ash field, dubbed the Medusae Fossae Formation. About the size of India, this gigantic field is thought to be the source of most of the dust on Mars.

This particular location sits on the northernmost edge of that huge field. The elongated mesas mark the field’s edge, disappearing to the north but becoming thick and extensive to the south. The prevailing southeast-to-northwest winds have acted to clean most of the ash away.

We can get an idea about how deep and pervasive that field once was at this location by the pedestal crater in the middle right. Once, the floor of that crater was below the top of the ash field. At that time, the top of the dunes marked the general ground level across this entire image. Over time, the winds blew most of this material away, but the denser packed floor of the crater resisted that erosion, and thus now stands above the surrounding terrain.

The more normal-looking craters nearby could have occurred before the ash was deposited, or after it was blown away. The impact that created the pedestal crater however occurred when the ash covered everything here.

Overview map

The white cross on the overview map to the right marks the location of this image. If you look close at the full resolution image, you will see that these mesas are made up of multiple layers, with each layer likely the result of a nearby major volcanic eruption from one of the many mammoth volcanoes to the east and west. The flat terrain on which they sit is likely a hard lava flood plain, not ash. This flood lava was likely laid down first, then covered with the volcanic ash, which has now blown away.

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.

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