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The colors of Mars

The different colors of Mars
Click for full image.

Actually today’s cool image tells us less about the real colors on Mars and much about the colors captured by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The photo on the right was taken on May 2, 2020, and shows a relatively featureless area to the east of 80-mile wide Byrd Crater in the high southern latitude of Mars.

The only major features seen on this photo are a series of rounded ridges that in the larger context map at the image site look almost like drainage hollows coming down from the crater’s rim about twenty miles away.

The colors, though exaggerated and not entirely as the eye would see them, still tell us something very real about the surface. As explained here [pdf]:

In spite of the variable level of color enhancement for the Extras products, we can make some generalizations to better understand what the stretched color images are showing. Dust (or indurated dust) is generally the reddest material present and looks reddish in the RGB color. … Coarser-grained materials (sand and rocks) are generally bluer … but also relatively dark, except where coated by dust. Frost and ice are also relatively blue, but bright, and often concentrated at the poles or on pole-facing slopes. Some bedrock is also relatively bright and blue, but not as much as frost or ice, and it has distinctive morphologies.

Thus, this photo is telling us that the lower areas are covered with dust (the red), while the rounded ridgelines are covered with coarser and bigger rocks. The brightest blue, which is facing towards the south pole, might also indicate frost or ice.

Overview map

The map to the right provides the overall context. Today’s image is just off the edge of the map, to the east of Byrd Crater. At about 65 degrees south latitude, Byrd Crater is still quite a distance from the pole, though the edge of the pole’s layered deposits of ice (as shown by the reddish plateau) are only about 200 miles away. Finding ice here would thus not be surprising.

Though this location’s latitude is at the uppermost edge of the mid-latitude bands where scientists have identified many glacial features, its high latitude close to the south pole means that ice is very likely here, an underground ice table close to the surface. Though this is not confirmed, this is what the blue colors are suggesting.

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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.

One comment

  • Jeff

    False colors of astronomical objects have always been a “necessary evil” in science, but in my experience with star parties, so many of the public are disappointed in not seeing the “pretty colors” like they did in magazines and online. Some conversations would end up with long and drawn out explanations, while others folks would just walk away a bit let down. I started telling folks before they got to the eyepiece the “pretty colors” would not be there, but challenged them to look around and tell me what the =could= see. A fun test was to have the Orion nebula centered and ask them what colors they pick out. The younger kids (with more color sensitivity) got a kick out of seeing more than the parents.

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