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Martian crater overwhelmed by glacier?

Martian crater overwhelmed by glacier?
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on January 28, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It shows what the science team labels a “modified crater.”

What I see is an old crater almost completely covered by glacial material. That material however is also very old, as there are numerous small craters on its surface, enough that it must have been here for a long time. Its cracked surface also suggests this glacier is very old.

Thus, while we might have ice here, buried by a thin layer of dust and debris to prevent it from sublimating away, it must be very old ice. The many climate cycles caused by the extreme swings in Mars’ rotational tilt, from 11 to 60 degrees, have apparently not caused this ice to ebb and flow very much.

Might it therefore not be ice, but hardened lava?

The location, as shown by the overview map below, provides some context, but only makes this mystery more puzzling.

Overview map

The white cross indicates the location of this glacier-filled crater. Its latitude is about 40 degrees south, which places it in the southern mid-latitude bands where scientists have found a lot of ice-filled craters and glacial debris. In fact, just to the east, in the mountainous northern arc that makes up the north border of the Argyre Basin, scientists have found numerous glacial features.

So, based on this limited information, the photo appears to be showing us glacial debris. Yet if so, why has this glacier survived apparently almost unchanged while many others in the same Martian mid-latitude bands show cyclical patterns of ebb and flow, as the planet’s tilt swung back and forth?

Note too that if you click on the image and look at the full picture, the glacier that overwhelms this crater is actually filling what appears to be a much larger crater, though far more distorted along its rim. Once again, it shows no cyclical pattern, and instead appears to have sat here relatively unchanged for a very long time. The small impact craters on it also suggest that it is old, but also that whatever those impacts hit was harder than ice.

Ice or lava? Old or young? We need more information to explain this intriguing Martian geology.

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.

 

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2 comments

  • pawn

    Oh wow! This is such a great pic. The softness of the craters in the overflowing mass suggest possible sublimation. That gash towards the center is really bizarre.

  • I enlarged the image, paying attention to the outfall in the crater. My impression, based on observing Earth formations, and understanding Mars is alien, is ice. It doesn’t ‘feel’ like lave, although that is a very poor way to make a judgment. Only boots on the ground will know for sure.

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