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Filled and distorted craters on Mars

A very distorted and filled crater on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on May 25, 2020. The entire image was dubbed “Cluster of Filled Craters”, but I decided to highlight the crater of the cluster that was most strangely distorted of them all. The material that fills all the craters in the full image is almost certainly buried ice and is dubbed concentric crater fill by scientists.

This crater is located in the northern lowland plains the mid-latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees, where planetary scientists have found ample evidence of many such filled craters and glaciers.

Not only does the crater’s interior seemed filled with glacial material, its distorted rim suggests that it has been reshaped by glacial activity that might have covered it entirely over the eons as the mid-latitude glaciers of Mars waxed and waned with the extreme shifts that happen regularly to Mars’ rotational tilt. Moreover, there is strong evidence that in these lowland northern plains an underground ice table exists close to the surface, allowing for more distortion over time.

The overview map below provides some location context.

Overview map

The white cross indicates the location in Utopia Basin of this crater image. I have posted numerous images showing similar squishy features in Utopia. This plain is also the prime landing site in 2021 for China’s rover from its Tianwen-1 mission, now on its way to Mars. That rover will likely land to the east, just beyond the right edge of this map.

The two mensae regions, Protonilus and Nilosyrtis, to the west and in the same glacial latitude bands, are regions I call glacier country, because numerous glaciers appear to exist on almost all the slopes of the numerous canyons and mesas and buttes of this chaos terrain.

Jezero Crater is the targeted landing site for the Perseverance rover, set to land February 18, 2021. Jezero is about 18 degrees north latitude, which puts it well south of the northern hemisphere’s glacial band. Nonetheless, the strange delta flow into the crater that caused scientists to pick this landing site suggests some sort of liquid or mud flow.

Increasingly the evidence points to Mars as being a place with a lot of frozen water, with much of it apparently very close to the surface, if not on the surface and only protected by a thin layer of debris.

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.


  • Terrence

    My initial interpretation of the miss-shaped crater was that it was the product of two asteroids that orbit each other striking Mars at the same time.

  • Terrence: If you look at the full image, you will see that this is not the only crater distorted, though none as much as this one. While this could have been caused by a multi-impact, I have my doubts.

    Do a search on BtB for Utopia, and you will see a lot of similar strange-looking craters, all suggesting there was a lot of ice at impact that melted, causing the strange shapes, that were also later distorted by other processes.

  • Max

    Recent hypothesis confirm the glacier theory.

    I still believe a nearby supernova sent a cloud of gas and dust up the local chimney impacting our entire solar system. Collapsed our atmosphere by burning hydrogen with our oxygen, filling our oceans, killing the dinosaurs, giving us too much nitrogen that was not native to our planet causing the first of many ice ages.
    Mars, Europa, and most of the outer moons we’re also covered in ice/frozen gases. After all this time, the carbon dioxide ice caps on Mars is all that is left of a once ice covered world. All that is above ground evaporated away and was removed by the solar wind.

  • Max wrote, “After all this time, the carbon dioxide ice caps on Mars is all that is left of a once ice covered world. All that is above ground evaporated away and was removed by the solar wind.”

    There is a big problem with this hypothesis of yours. It doesn’t fit the facts. The CO2 dry ice caps on Mars, that come and go seasonally, lie on top of large permanent ice caps of water.

    In fact, as a regular reader of BtB, I can’t imagine how you can even posit a theory that says there is no water left on Mars. It seems I post something almost every day illustrating the gobs of ice they are finding in the mid-latitudes and higher.

  • pawn

    Late to the post but a meteor approaching at a very close angle to the surface could have produced this distorted shape. Traveling from the relative west the impact energy could have died out as it propagated toward the east resulting in a lesser slope of the walls.

    I don’t know why I post this stuff here but it’s a bit fun to guess. Maybe some other folks will be inclined to use their imaginations.

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