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Taffy terrain in Mars’ death valley

Taffy terrain in Mars' death valley
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, and enhanced to post here, was taken on December 17, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label “banded terrain and possible breached crater.”

Banded terrain is another name for a geological feature dubbed “taffy terrain” and only found on Mars, and furthermore only found there in Hellas Basin, the deepest giant impact basin on the red planet. This taffy terrain is considered very young, no than 3 billion years old, and formed from the flow of some form of viscous material, though what that material is remains unsolved.

This image however may help solve that mystery. The breached crater is just off frame to the upper right. The two-fingered flow coming down from the picture’s top is the flow coming out of the crater’s gap.

Overview map

The white dot on the overview map to the right marks the location, on the edge of the region inside Hellas Basin marked taffy terrain. The white box in the inset indicates the area covered by the picture above, with the one-mile wide breached crater just to the northeast.

The flow pattern suggests a flow out of the crater, which means this crater is likely a volcanic caldera and not an impact crater. Whether the volcano was spitting out magma or some mixture of wet mud is still undetermined. The picture was likely taken to investigate that very question.

One clue is the latitude, 40 degrees south, in the mid-latitudes where orbital images detect numerous glacial features. Thus this increases the odds that ice or water was a factor in creating this flow.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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