Scroll down to read this post.


My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

The sea of dunes surrounding the Martian north pole

The sea of dunes surrounding the Martian north pole
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on December 5, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a collection of wormlike dunes located in the giant sea of dunes that surrounds the Martian north pole ice cap.

North is to the top. The season when this picture was taken was northern winter. The Sun is barely above the horizon, only 8 degrees high, and shining from the southeast. Because it is winter it is also dust season, making the atmosphere hazy and thus making the light soft. No distinct shadows, except that the sides of the dunes facing away from the Sun are darkly shadowed.

The consistent orientation of the dunes suggests that the prevailing winds blow from the northeast to create the steep-sided alcoves. The wind however might not be the only factor to form these dunes.

Overview map

The black cross on the center right of the overview map to the right marks the location of these dunes, in the part of Olympia Undae where dune coverage is somewhat intermittent.

At this time in winter these dunes are likely covered with a thin mantle of clear dry ice that fell as snow when winter began. When spring arrives in a few months that mantle will begin to sublimate away, from the bottom up because sunlight shines through the clear dry ice to warm the underlying ground. The pressure of the trapped gas will eventually cause the mantle to crack at weak points, usually at the base of the dunes. The escaping gas will then spew dust onto the mantle, creating dark splotches that will disappear once the mantle is entirely gone.

Some scientists theorize that the coming and going of this mantle could also shape these dunes over time. At this time however the data is insufficient to determine one way or the other.

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

One comment

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *