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The impact that almost cracked Mars open

An irregular pit chain on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on June 25, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label an “irregular pit chain,” made up of a series of depressions scattered along a line that extends more than sixty miles to the northeast and to the southwest, beyond the edges of this high resolution close-up.

The chain likely indicates the existence of a fault line, or crack that created a void underground in which surface material is sinking. What makes this crack or fault line significant is how it and other similar fissures or cracks map across the Martian surface, extending for thousands of miles far beyond this particular pit chain and covering almost half the planet. In aggregate they imply the occurrence of past geological events so stupendous they are difficult to comprehend.

Overview map

The overview map to the right has been extended in the lower left in order to include the location of this particular picture (the black dot) as well as the full extent of this particular fault line (the black line). The other white lines indicate other similar fissures, all splaying out from the four giant volcanoes that sit on what scientists label the Tharsis Bulge, generally the highest region on Mars indicated by the brown and white elevation data on the map. The longest fissure actually cuts across that bulge and is likely the reason the three volcanoes align as they do.

The Tharsis Bulge and the cracks that splay out from it, including also Valles Marineris itself (now so well eroded it appears not as a crack but as a gigantic canyon), suggest some singular event. Usually scientists talk about how the volcanism itself imposed pressure from below, causing the rise of the volcanoes and the bulge, while also cracking the ground.

I want to point out an even more fundamental possibility that caused that underground pressure itself. Take a look at the small global map. The colors indicate elevation. The bluer the region, the lower the elevation. Do you see the large blue basin, sitting almost precisely on the opposite side of the planet to the Tharsis Bulge? That basin is Hellas Basin, what I like to call the basement of Mars. Hellas is believed to be the result of a single giant impact that occurred around four billion years ago, during the Late Heavy Bombardment when the accretion disk in the early solar system was coalescing into planets. That same time period is what caused the plethora of craters on the Moon and Mercury.

Though this remains pure speculation, the locations on opposite sides of the planet of these two major features strongly suggests that one created the other. The impact at Hellas would certainly have been strong enough to send shock waves through the planet, enough to crack the opposite hemisphere as well as generate the volcanic energy needed for the growth of the Tharsis Bulge.

I am not the first to notice these facts. I just thought I’d point them out to my readers. Others have also noted how other large impact basins on Mars align with other volcanic regions on the planet’s opposite side.

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.

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"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


  • Well Bob, that’s pretty cool!

  • Mike Borgelt

    “Tear along dotted line” ?

  • Jeff Wright

    I can’t imagine what that might have looked like.

    The lower gravity allows for delicate rocks… maybe it did the same for early life spalled off towards Earth.

  • pawn

    I’ve been telling people about the “odd” coincidence of the placement of these features for years. These impacts also could have affected the planet’s core disrupting the processes that may have led to Earth’s miracle core.

    Mars was just unlucky.

  • pawn


    so sorry

  • Andrew Winter

    Read the works of In particular, and this is kind of Important. Read the beginning of Ages in Chaos. He broke off writing that when the global scope of the events in Exodus became apparent to him. He wanted some kind of explanation and confirmation. He then wrote “Worlds in Collision” and all hell broke loose.

    BUT,… in that work he detailed the events, as seen from Earth, that may be responsible for most of that damage. Later, long before any probes were ever sent to Mars, he said there would be no life found on Mars, and likely little surface water, that Mars had been virtually destroyed by the events described in the Bible and in the Story of The Trojan War, the “Illiad” of Homer.

    If you know his work, nothing we see on Mars today will be a surprise. Fascinating read of an author who pretty much invented the “contrarian” scientific view point.

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