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Frozen lava flows around Martian hills

Martian lava flowing around hills
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and enhanced to post here, was taken on August 24, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows the westernmost edge of the Athabasca flood lava plain, thought to be the youngest lava flow on Mars, having covered the area of Great Britain in a matter of weeks 600 million years ago.

This image was a captioned feature yesterday by the MRO science team. As they note:

Although you can’t sail a boat on a sea of lava, hills and craters that stick up higher than the lava flow act like barriers. When a boat is driven through the water, there is a bow wave at the front of the boat, and a wake that trails off behind that indicates which way the boat is moving. In a lava flow, when a hill sticks up, the lava piles up on the upstream side (just like a bow wave) and can leave a wake on the downstream side, so we can tell which way the lava was moving against the stationary hill.

As you can see, every hill has a pile of lava on its northeast slopes, and a wake to its southeast. As the main vent of the Athabasca eruption is to the northeast, about 500 miles away (as shown on the overview map below), the flow direction suggested by the wakes fit the general geography.

Overview map

The white cross on the map to the right marks the location of this image, sitting about 300 miles east of InSight and about 450 miles northeast of Gale Crater where Curiosity is roving. The Athabasca flow traveled mostly from the east to the west, with a secondary tributary breaking off to flow south.

The length of the wakes in this image also provide further evidence of the speed in which the Athabasca flood lava was laid down. To my eye, the lava was flowing so fast that the wakes do not have time to fill immediately, but remain long and distinct for great distances.

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.


  • wayne

    here we go…. Mars related:

    “Rocket-Bye Baby” (August 1956)
    Merrie Melodies: Chuck Jones

  • Greg the Geologist

    Looks like the flip side of Racetrack Playa near Death Valley. Note a few very subtle features to the south with the same general orientation. Could they represent buried topography that was reflected in the flow of lava?

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