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Martian glacial run-off?

Mosaic of glacial runoff
For original images click here and here.

Today’s cool image provides us a glimpse at the carved canyons created when the mid-latitude glaciers on Mars were active in the past and slowly flowing downhill into the section of the northern lowland plains dubbed Acidalia Planitia.

The photo to the right is a mosaic of two images taken by the context camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here. The mosaic shows a region at the very edge of Acidalia Planitia at latitude 43 degrees north.

Below is a close-up of the area in the white box, taken by MRO’s high resolution camera on February 28, 2021, as well as a global map marking the location of this image at the very edge of the glacier country found in the chaos terrain of Deuteronilus Mensae.

Close-up of carved canyons
Click for full image.

While the wider shot above appears to show a variety of drainages flowing to the northwest, it is hard to say whether there are buried glaciers in the canyons shown in the close-up to the right. At present the canyon floors appear covered with sand dunes, though there might be glacial ice buried underneath.

This patch of canyons however do resemble typical chaos terrain, with mesas surrounded by canyons that appear to have formed in faults and cracks and thus cross-cut each other at many angles. What likely happened is that when the mid-latitudes were cold, when the planet’s tilt was much higher than today’s 25 degrees, there were active glaciers in these canyons that as they flowed carved the canyons to create the chaos we see today.

As shown on the map below, the chaos terrain of the mensae regions of Deutonilus, Protonilus, and Nilosyrtis are usually found at the transition zone between the cratered southern highlands and the northern lowland plains, in the mid-latitudes. This is why so many glacial features are found within them.

This location is still in that zone, which is why there are likely glaciers buried in these canyons. As we move west and south in that transition zone however we move into dryer equatorial regions where there should be less and less evidence of near-surface ice. By 30 degrees latitude we should find none, as confirmed by all the present data.

If at some point in the future someone does find evidence of near surface ice below 30 degrees latitude, they will have made a significant discovery. That easily accessible equatorial ice will be great value to early Martian colonists, making any locations where it is found valuable real estate and likely resulting in the equivalent of a Martian gold rush to grab it.

Click for high resolution clean version.

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

  • George

    It’s beginning to look like Mars is a near-iceball covered with a layer of dust and sand. Water appears to NOT be a problem for the first settlers, even at the mid-latitudes, which would have more stable temperatures. We just need to find the Martian artifact structures to turn it all into breathable atmosphere (Total Recall).

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