Scroll down to read this post.


Please consider supporting my work here at Behind The Black by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Snow on Mars?

Snow on Mars?
Click to see full image.

At today’s presentations at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas, scientists showed images and data [pdf] suggesting that many of the Martian gullies found on cliff faces are formed when the dust layer protecting underlying snow gets blown away and the exposed snow/ice then melts.

The image on the right was taken by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2009, and has been cropped to post here. The white streaks are what they suggest is exposed ice/snow.

From their paper [pdf]

We interpret these observations to indicate that the light-toned materials are exposures of subsurface, water-ice mantle materials that are very similar to … [materials] being exhumed due to slumping caused by sublimation or seasonal frost processes. … The bright white/yellow appearance of these materials in [MRO] near-infrared imagery is consistent with the presence of dust (relatively clean water ice typically appears relatively blue) that partially covers, or is mixed in with ice deposited as snow, within the pasted-on materials.

A dust content of 1,000 parts per million by mass (p.p.m.m.) is sufficient for melting to occur for a wide range of snow properties and atmospheric pressures, and can occur under current conditions in the mid-latitudes. Modeling suggests that a 5-cm dust lag layer is enough to ‘protect’ the underlying snow from the Sun, and that for melting to occur, rapid exposure of the preserved snowpack is necessary.

Their presentation also included images of this same location, taken across three Martian years and showing the white streaks appearing and then disappearing.

The formation process of these gullies remains one of the primary geological mysteries that Mars presents to us. Is water involved? Ice? Brine? Does this material come from below, leaking out? Or is it placed on the surface as frost?

All of these have been suggested as an explanation. All have problems that make them poor answers.

What these scientists are suggesting is that, rather than water or brine leaking out from below ground or frost being laid down on the surface, the gullies form when subsurface ice/snow is exposed to the Sun and melts. They note that “Subsurface ice can be permanently stable at latitudes poleward of 25° due to slope effects, especially on pole-facing slopes.”

In other words, in latitudes higher than 25 degrees latitude, there could be a lot of snow and ice just below the surface on these slopes, covered by dust so that it doesn’t melt. With time small areas get exposed, melt away, and the subsequent disturbance causes small slides that produce the gullies. This conclusion seems reasonable, considering the number of other studies that suggest the presence of a ice table on Mars, below the surface. Moreover, this cliff is part of a major canyon draining into the eastern side of Hellas Basin, the basement of Mars, where there is ample other evidence of the presence of historic water and modern ice.

As always, I think like a colonist on Mars. These cliffs now appear to me as prime real estate, places to look for easily accessible water on Mars. That they are near Hellas Basin increases their value, as the low elevation of this basin means it will have a thicker atmosphere which will ease colonization. If we can find some caves in this region, we might then have all the ingredients for building that first Martian colony.


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 are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also 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.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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.