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Frozen waves of Martian lava?

Frozen waves of Martian lava?
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on March 17, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The science team labeled this a terrain sample image, which implies it was taken not as part of any specific request, but to fill a gap in the camera’s schedule in order to maintain its proper temperature.

What are we looking at? This stippled terrain with curved ridges actually extends quite a distance beyond this image. A MRO context camera picture taken on July 22, 2020 shows its full extent, about 10 miles wide but extending to the north and south about 30 miles total, butting up against a north-south mountain chain to its east that is about seventy miles long with its highest peak about 8,000 feet above this plain.

Overview map

The white dot southwest of the giant volcano Arsia Mons on the overview map to the right marks this location, on the outside edge of the vast flood lava plains laid down by Mars’ giant volcanoes. Therefore it is very reasonable that this stippled terrain is hardened flood lava.

As for the many small random ridges as well as the long curved ridges, my wild guess is that we are looking at frozen lava waves. On Mars lava is less viscous than on Earth, and flows more like water. Before this lava hardened it appears its surface was literally like a rough ocean of waves, with the two long curves two larger waves flowing towards the mountain shoreline to the east. When the lava hardened the shape of all these waves was retained.

You can definitely get an understanding of why I have come to this conclusion by looking at the context camera picture. Scan up and down that lava shoreline. You can see many such curved ridges, as if a series of big waves (the kind that surfers lust after) suddenly froze in place as they flowed toward the mountain chain.

Of course, I am making a very wild guess. The features here could be formed by many other processes, including ones having nothing to do with freezing lava. I just like it because it appeals to my artistic nature.

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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