Readers!
 

The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.

 

The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.

 

Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.

 

To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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If Paypal doesn'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
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The freaky floor of Mars’ Hellas Basin

The perplexing floor of Hellas Basin
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image takes us to the Death Valley of Mars, Hellas Basin, a place I like to call the basement of Mars. The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on September 28, 2020, and gives us another example of the very strange and inexplicable geological formations that are often found on the floor of Hellas.

The picture was taken not as part of any particular research project, but somewhat randomly for engineering reasons. In order to maintain the proper temperature of MRO’s high resolution camera, it must take images in a regular cadence. When large gaps in time occur between requested images, the camera team then picks locations to fill those gaps, sometimes randomly, sometimes based on a quick review of earlier wide angle images.

Sometimes these “terrain sample” images are quite uninteresting. More often they hold baffling surprises.

I think the photo to the right falls into the latter category. Though the terrain covered by the full image is largely flat and lacking in large features, the surface is strewn with perplexing small details.

The light streaks might be dust devil tracks, but why are they light here when such tracks are routinely dark everywhere else on Mars? What formed the many parallel small ridges? What caused the smooth solid patch near the photo’s center top? And why do the ridgelines at the western edge of that patch run in almost a perpendicular direction to the other ridges?

All a mystery, but then the floor of Hellas Basin is filled with such mysteries. Below is a list of some other cool images of the floor of Hellas, all weird and mystifying. Also below is an overview elevation map of Hellas Basin, with darker blue indicating the lowest elevations. The white cross marks the location of today’s photo.

Overview of Hellas Basin

One interesting fact about Hellas Basin is that though it spans the southern mid- latitudes from 28 to 55 degrees, the exact band where scientists have found numerous glacial features in both the north and south hemispheres, there are no such features in Hellas. In fact, Hellas is very dry, even though to its east are numerous glacial features coming down from the canyons Dao and Harmakhis, and to its south are numerous scarps with exposed pure ice layers visible.

This lack of water in Hellas is likely related to the basin’s low elevation. On Earth we would assume the lower elevations are warmer, causing the ice to melt away. On Mars might also be true, with the ice sublimating away to leave no water behind. This however is merely a wild guess. Mars is an alien planet, so any assumptions we make based on Earth are very risky, and are often wrong.

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.
 

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.

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