May 18, 2007
The "Dark Spots" of Russell Crater
The latest close-up
images of the Russell Crater 'dunes' offer new opportunities
to test the electrical hypothesis. Among the mysteries: dark
nodules occupying the crest of a giant dune from which
unexplained "gullies" emerge.
In the previous
TPOD in this series, we presented a small section of a very
large, high resolution HiRISE
image titled “Channels on Dunes in Russell Crater.”
Pictured above is a small segment of the dune crest featured
in the image. (This is the area enclosed in the red square
in the thumbnail of the full image below).
anyone browsing the huge HiRISE image, it should be
immediately clear that the dunes of Russell Crater present
feature after feature that will never be reconciled with
NASA’s earlier expositions on the mysteries. No possibility
remains for reducing the “dunes” to wind blown sand in an
electrically neutral atmosphere, or the “gullies” to erosion
by fluid flow.
attempts to explain the channels by fluid erosion, NASA
scientists isolate one enigma from all of the others. Our
claim, on the other hand, is that every feature previously
down to the most finite etching of the surface, will find
its explanation in electric discharge and electrostatic
sculpting. The crest of the formation, we contend, has
served as a “lightning rod” for electrical activity. The
ravines defy the principles of fluid erosion because they
were cut by "streams" of charged particles.
In the portion
of the image shown here, the scalloped appearance of the
crest stands out, but not as an isolated feature. While
standard theory will see “avalanches,” we envision
cylindrical arrays of current filaments acting on the crest,
to be pinched down into more narrow plasma columns that
carved some of the more prominent gullies (pictured below).
Clearly the activity was complex, but there is every reason
to be confident in the electrical interpretation of the
scene as a whole. Our claim is that this interpretation will
account precisely for what NASA scientists have consistently
overlooked. Of course, anything we offer at this early
juncture must be taken as tentative, but we are confident
that the more closely the images are examined, the more
convincing will be the electrical explanation.
It is evident,
for example, that the action of charged particles created a
region of charge imbalance a short distance beneath the
crest. Here, charge redistribution is apparent in the
filamentary and braided ribbons running horizontally
along the embankment. It is apparent that something akin to
St. Elmo’s Fire left its embossed signature on the
surface--a feature so far from standard theory that NASA’s
investigators seem not to have even seen it. A small portion
of the braided filaments is highlighted by the arrow in the
image below. What is such a feature doing on a “sand dune”?
description of the scene, the authors of the HiRISE page
write, “Distinct dark spots are located near where the
channels seem to originate.” And that is all they have to
say. But is it really possible to separate the dark nodules
configured on the crest from the embossed braiding running
along the embankment close to the crest?
If the crest was
the focal point of discharge, at times diffuse and at others
focused by plasma pinching, the dark spots in the picture
above could be one of the best tests of the electrical
hypothesis. Seen electrically, they are the focal points of
diffuse discharge, where surface material was fused into
dark, but more reflective, glassified clumps, a counterpart
to the bumps and blisters on lightning arrestor caps. Look
closely throughout the highest-resolution HiRISE image and
you will see subtle spidery filaments radiating from the
darkened clumps, as might be expected of charge
redistribution in the form of Lichtenberg figures--a key
observation to which we have already alluded in our earlier
discussion of Martian spiders, and one to which we shall
return with greater clarity in the present series.
associated electrodynamically are the shallow ravines neatly
etched into the surface and connecting the dark nodules, in
a process that mysteriously ignored the (relatively)
minuscule dunes they cut across. These secondary, but
undeniably organized ravines emphasize the importance of
seeing the dark spots in terms of dynamic connection.
Logically, the ravines cannot be isolated from the events
that created the nodules. In narrow-angle close-ups its easy
to see random placement of the nodules, but when the scene
is viewed in its larger context, it is clear that their
placement is not random. Consider the large HiRISE
here. This image makes clear that the tiny ravines
(which can only be seen in the highest-resolution
image)--and the dark nodules they connect--are aligned in
the direction of the spectacular ravines running down the
embankment to the lower left.
How, then, can
one justify an approach that attempts to explain the ravines
in improbable isolation from the other, equally “mysterious”
features of the region?
Coming May 20: “Dalmatian Spots” of Mars’ South Pole