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Not that anyone’s really keeping track, but I do think that this particular crater in the southern ice cap is the most beautiful (recent) impact on Mars.  HiRISE Image ID ESP_057152_0985, -81.485 latitude, 41.358 longitude, impact event in the late summer of 2018.  I keep coming back to it- the beautiful contrast against the ice, the way that the dark sediments of the ejecta blanket in the center almost form wings, the secondary ring of brighter ice all around it where the whoosh of air and dust cleaned the surface, the speckling of secondary impacts throughout.

One of my privileges as a student of Mars is that my object of study is not inhumanly large, or inhumanly small, or really very abstract at all.  The underlying theories can be, sure; geology isn’t stamp collecting.  But fundamentally, Mars is a place.  You can point to it, it’s over there, and sometimes we go to it.  The smaller dark speckles here are a meter or two across, the larger dark zone is maybe a couple football fields.  Roughly the size of a decent-sized mall parking lot, to walk across it.  Uneven going, since the rubble can range from dust to boulders, and especially towards the center you might clamber across using your hands as much as your feet at times.  You’d be cautious, since the exposed surfaces are so fresh- newly fractured rocks will surprise you with unexpected jagged edges, and even in the low gravity, stones are constantly shifting underfoot because nothing’s settled yet.  Ice pokes through here and there as you get near the outer perimeter, and when you look up from your study area it dominates the landscape, rows of small hillocks receding in to the distance.  It’s a crisp mix of water and carbon dioxide, rather pitted, with mottled patterns of red-black dust tracing across the surface.  Where it’s clean, it’s more of a matte white than you’re used to from snow on Earth, just enough to throw you a bit.  Especially as it picks up color tones from the alien sky above you: blue at the top of the sky’s arch near the sun, but phasing through soft purples to a dull red at the horizon.  The breeze is brisk, but gossamer; in the thin atmosphere, it can barely move the hairs on your arm, and the familiar sound of wind whistling over the rocks seems to come from far away.

Not really going anywhere with this post.  I just think about it sometimes, is all.


Tags:

#space #Mars

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