Scroll down to read this post.


Please consider supporting my work, as I take no advertisements nor accept any sponsors in order to keep the website clean, easy to read, and to avoid any accusations of conflict of interest. Your support leaves me entirely independent, able to say whatever I think while being free from censorship or reprisals.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five 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 southernmost extent of Mars’ youngest lava flood event

The southernmost edge of Mars' youngest lava event
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 24, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Labeled “flow margin in Elysium Planitia,” it shows the very edge of what scientists believe was the most recent large lava event on Mars, dubbed the Athabasca Valles, that is thought to have occurred only 600 million years ago. In only a matter of weeks the fast flowing lava covered a region about the size of Great Britain. What we see here is the southernmost edge of that flow, with the smooth terrain on the west an older lava flood plain, covered by the new flood lava from Athabasca on the east.

The polygon cracks likely indicate cracks that formed during the hardening process (like the polygon cracks in drying mud). Hot lava then pushed up from below to form the ridges. It is also possible the ridges are what scientists call “wrinkle ridges,” formed when material shrinks during the drying process.

Overview map

The white dot on the overview map to the right marks the location, with the white rectangle in the inset indicating the area covered by the picture above. That inset, created from a global mosaic of MRO’s context camera images, makes the flow margin very evident, flowing past a small hill and some ridges before ending to the south.

Athabasca might be the youngest known lava flow on Mars, but in this region between the giant Martian volcanoes the surface is covered for thousands of miles with many such flood lavas, each layer signaling a past eruption. Some of that lava came down from the big volcanoes, travelling many many hundreds of miles. Others erupted out of nearer vents, such as Athabasca, which spewed from a point near the western end of the Cerberus Fossae cracks and ran west and south from there.

In all cases the lava flowed fast, because in Mars’ lower gravity it acts more like water.

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 *