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Martian channels formed by water? by ice? by lava?

Meandering channels on Mars
Click for full image.

Many of the pictures from Mars show meandering channels, all of which suggest an erosion process related to some form of flow. For most of the last half century, since the first images of these channels were beamed back by Mariner 9 in 1972, scientists had believed that liquid water must have caused them. The accumulating recent photos from Mars now tentatively suggest that these channels might have instead been caused by glacial processes, creeping frozen water instead of liquid.

The image to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on July 17, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The channels suggest some form of flow going downhill to the northwest, but was it caused by water or ice? There is no obvious visual evidence of glaciers in this image, nor is there any such evidence that I can spot in any of the nearby high resolution images of this same region, despite the fact that at 35 degrees north latitude it is in the mid-latitude band where scientists have identified many glacial features.

The region itself is called Mareotis Fossae, an area of southwest-to-northeast trending parallel fissures and ridges, as shown in the two overview maps below.

Wide Overview map

Close overview map

The white box in the top map indicates the area covered by the zoomed in bottom map. The cross in both maps indicates the location of today’s image.

Located about 800-1,000 miles east of the giant shield volcano Alba Mons and about 1,200 miles northeast of the Tharsis Bulge that contains Mars four largest volcanoes, there is ample evidence [pdf] that some sort of volcanic geologic process formed this terrain.

Yet the meandering channels in today’s image, coming down off of the north slope of one of this region’s many parallel ridges, do not appear volcanic in nature.

Water? Ice? Lava? Your guess is as good as mine.


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 available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can 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. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

One comment

  • LocalFluff

    Perhaps less evidence of flowing water near these volcanoes, where lava probably dug out the features, as a contrast to regions without evidence of volcanoes where there are also river-like features, would indicate flowing water at the latter? Heck, there must be ways to, even from orbit, differ between lava channels and water channels!?

    Fossie means “ditch”. And the name of the road where I live is Fossie. So that doesn’t sound so nice today: “ditch road”. But the main road that the Romans built in England was called the Fossie road. They built roads wherever they were, but in England they had to also dig ditches beside them. Because of the constant rain. So it was an especially big investment for them. Thus it has been an honorable name of roads everywhere since. (They did it for the gin!)

    Talking about Mars, this income tax thing with Mr. Trump that obviously is planted as an issue for Tuesday’s debate:
    – How much corporate tax has Trump paid?
    – How much income has Trump gotten from the governments?
    – And versus Joe Biden for both above!

    Bringing up taxes, among the mess of everything else, seems like a big win for the Republicans. Debate watchers should think about where the taxes come from and where they go. I wonder whether the teleprompter AI figures out any winning lines at all for Yoyo Biden. I’m not a racist, but I don’t think that the Chinese are that smart yet.

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