Peering into a Martian pit


Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Peering into a pit
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last week released the above image of a pit to the west of the giant volcanoes Arsia and Pavonis Mons. The left image is without any adjustments in exposure. The right image has brightened the pit’s interior to bring out details in order to see what’s there. As planetary scientist Ross Beyer of Ames Research Center noted in his caption:

The floor of the pit appears to be smooth sand and slopes down to the southeast. The hope was to determine if this was an isolated pit, or if it was a skylight into a tunnel, much like skylights in the lava tubes of Hawai’i. We can’t obviously see any tunnels in the visible walls, but they could be in the other walls that aren’t visible.

Wider view of pit
Click for full image.

Because the image has been rotated 180 degrees, north is down. The northern wall of the pit appears to be either very vertical, or overhung. A tunnel might head north from here, but because of the angle of the photograph, this cannot be confirmed.

To the right is a wider look from the full photograph, showing the surrounding terrain, with north now to the top. In line with this pit is a depression that crosses the east-west canyon to the north. This alignment strongly suggests that a fault or fissure exists here, and that an underground void along this fissure line could exist. It also suggests that a deeper and larger void could exist below that larger canyon.

This pit, and the accompanying fissures, were likely caused by crack-widening along these faults, produced as this volcanic region bulged upward.

Map of knowns pits surrounding Arsia Mons

This pit is also one of the many many pits found near these volcanoes. The map to the right shows by the black boxes all the pits documented by the high resolution camera on MRO in the past few years, with this new pit indicated by the white box.

Beginning in November 2018 until November 2019 I was almost doing a monthly post reporting the new pits photographed by MRO. Since November however the number of new pit images dropped. This is not because every pit has been imaged, but because it appears they have completed their initial survey.

Below is a list of all those previous pit posts:

If you haven’t read these previously, spend some time looking at them all. The images (and possibilities for future exploration) are fascinating.

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Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
 

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
 

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
 

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

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