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Springtime on Martian dunes near the north pole

Dunes near the Martian north pole, in the spring

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 27, 2021. It shows a strange scattering of dunes on a flat plain. The red at the top of each dune probably indicates exposed dust and sand. The white fringe is likely either water frost or the leftover mantle of dry ice that is deposited in the polar regions each winter down to 60 degrees latitude, and disappears with the coming of spring, sublimating back into carbon dioxide gas.

There are a lot of puzzles here. The overview map below provides some context, but only some.

Overview map

This location, marked by the black cross, is at 76 degrees north latitude, putting it only about 800 miles away from the north pole. It also sits in the vast sea of sand dunes that circles the north polar ice cap, in an area where dunes cover between 11% to 79% of the surface.

Why these dunes however should be so individual and scattered, with some aligned in a string, is not clear. Nor is it presently understood why the north polar icecap of Mars is surrounded by this ring of sand dunes, while the south polar icecap is not. There are dunes in the south, but no where as many or gathered for endless trackless distances.

Locations such as this are regularly monitored by scientists using MRO to see if the changing seasons cause any changes to the dunes. The coming and going of the dry ice mantle could cause small avalanches and erosion in the dunes.

At the same time, the coldness at this location and the presence of water ice in the ground means that changes are not easy. While these are sand dunes they are not made of loose flowing sand. It has been hardened, and will only break apart with significant stress.


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.

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