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When looking at Mars’ images you must never jump to conclusions

Hardened sand in a crater
Click for full image.

In the past four years I have posted hundreds of cool images taken by the orbiters circling Mars. From those images I have been able to slowly gather and pass on to my readers some of the solid knowledge that scientists are gaining now about the Red Planet.

The image to the right illustrates best why one must never make any quick assumptions about the features you see in these photos. Taken on November 28, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it shows a small crater that appears partly filled with material. On its walls can be seen many slope streaks, a still unexplained feature unique to Mars that is not caused by rock or debris avalanches.

As for the material inside the crater, based on the majority of Martian images showing similar craters, the first assumption one might make is that this material is some form of eroding glacial material.

That first assumption however would simply be wrong. Glacial material found in Martian craters is routinely found in the mid-latitude bands between 30 and 60 degrees. This crater is sits almost exactly on the equator of Mars, where scientists have found no evidence of any glacial material or near-surface ice. In the equatorial regions the surface of Mars is essentially dry.

So what is that patch of material? As always, location is all.

Overview map

The crater sits, as indicated by the white cross, on the edge of the giant volcanic ash deposit dubbed the Medusae Fossae Formation. The deposit in the crater’s floor is thus almost certainly trapped volcanic ash from Medusae.

If you click on the picture to see the full resolution image and zoom in close, you will see that in detail this patch does not really have the soft appearance of sublimating ice. It appears harder, like the slickrock sandstone of the American southwest that was once sand dunes that over time hardened into rock, but is now easily eroded by wind.


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.


  • Well done Bob. Please keep them coming.

  • John Cross

    Would it be useful to initiate an impact on Mars (like we did recently in the polar region of the Moon) and get a full spectral analysis of what gets churned up? We have enough hardware in orbit that some eyes could be on the impact site….do we have anything still in orbit that would have sufficient mass/velocity to form a deep enough impact to vaporize or at least churn up substrata? I know the orbital velocity in a 300 km orbit around Mars is just a small percentage of that @ Earth…thoughts?

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