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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Slope streaks in frozen lava flows on Mars

Slope streaks on frozen lava
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 5, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a ridgeline at the base of the giant volcano Pavonis Mons, with slope streaks on ridge’s north and south sides.

Slope streaks are a mysterious phenomenon unique to Mars. While they resemble an avalanche, they do not change the topography of the surface at all. They appear to occur randomly year round, fading slowly with time. Also, while most are dark, scientists have also spotted bright slope streaks as well.

Slope streaks also only appear on surfaces covered with a layer of fine dust, something that is obviously the case in the cool image to the right. There is so much dust on the surface here that bedrock only appears at the top of the ridge, peeking out in only a few places.

The location of this image, as shown in the overview map below, adds some additional details.

Overview map

Pavonis Mons is the central volcano of the three that sit between the giant canyon Valles Marineris to the east and Mars’ biggest volcano, Olympus Mons, to the west. The white rectangle marks the location of this photo, at the very base of Pavonis.

Thus, under the fine dust layers that allowed the formation of these slope streaks it is likely that all the rock is volcanic in nature, part of the vast lava flows that came down this volcano more than a billion years ago.

Why there is a ridge here is a little unclear. It appears that as the lava flowed downhill, it might have pushed debris in front of it, which piled up to form this higher ridge. (That is a pure uneducated guess, however.) Later, the dust piled up on the surface, allowing for slope streaks to appear periodically, likely instigated by a small rock fall at the top.

As for the streaks, the process that forms them remains unknown. Several theories have been proposed (dust flows, brine flows) but none really fits all the facts. They remain one of Mars’ many geological mysteries.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

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.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.

One comment

  • Lee Stevenson

    It seems to be “leaking” into a circular feature… That’s the only solution I can come up with.., another asteroid impact.,..

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *