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Twisted taffy in the basement of Mars

Taffy on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, taken on March 7, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and cropped and reduced to post here, shows us an example of one of Mars’ strangest and most puzzling geological features, dubbed banded or “taffy-pull” terrain by scientists.

Taffy-pull terrain has so far only been found within Hellas Basin, Mars’ deepest impact basin and what I like to call the basement of Mars. Because of the lower crater count in this terrain scientists consider it relatively young, no more than 3 billion years old, according to this 2014 paper, which also notes

The apparent sensitivity to local topography and preference for concentrating in localized depressions is compatible with deformation as a viscous fluid.

At the moment what that viscous fluid was remains a matter of debate. Many theories propose that ice and water acting in conjunction with salt caused their formation, similar to salt domes seen on Earth. Other propose that the terrain formed from some kind of volcanic or impact melt process.

Almost all of the taffy terrain on Mars has been found in the deepest parts of Hellas Basin in a curved trough along its western interior, as shown by the light blue areas in the overview map below.

Overview map

The white cross marks where this particular image is located, well to the east of the deepest parts of Hellas Basin where much of this taffy terrain is found.

This region however is also close to the glacial features found frequently in the canyons of Dao and Harmakhis, thus adding weight to the possibility that water was involved in forming this taffy.

Who knows? I can tell you that in reviewing several science papers devoted expressly to these features, the scientists don’t. For example, this 2016 paper (from which I obtained the light blue map of taffy terrain on my overview map) reviews all the hypotheses, and while it favors some, it shows no enthusiasm for any. None seem to answer all the questions.

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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.

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