Glass Hills of Mars

More than 10 million square kilometers of landscape on the surface of Mars, a region nearly the size of Europe, is made of glass—specifically volcanic glass, "a shiny substance similar to obsidian that forms when magma cools too fast for its minerals to crystallize."

[Image: An otherwise randomly grabbed image of Mars from the fantastic HiRISE site].

In a paper called "Widespread weathered glass on the surface of Mars," authors Briony Horgan and James F. Bell III, from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, go on to suggest that "the ubiquitous dusty mantle covering much of the northern plains [of Mars] may obscure more extensive glass deposits" yet to be mapped.

Although it's worth emphasizing that this glass is present mostly in the form of "Eolian" grains—that is, small pieces of windblown sand accumulating in dune fields—it is, nonetheless, a sublime scene to consider, with endless glass ridges and hills rolling off beneath stars and red dust storms, slippery to the touch, as hard as bedrock, cold, perhaps glistening and prismatic inside with distorted reflections of constellations, like blisters of light on a television screen coextensive with the surface of the planet. You could slide from one hill to the next, for hours—for days—alone on a frozen ocean of self-reflecting landforms, dizzy with the images locked within.

(What would a glass farm look like, agriculture carved into crystalline ridges, cultivating strange geologies? Meanwhile, ages ago, in a different lifetime on BLDGBLOG: Mount St. Helens of Glass).

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Blogger Kivi said...

Of course Mars has glass, else what did Dr. Manhattan make his clockwork palace from?

April 15, 2012 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Alex Shepard said...

I need to remember to bring my sand surfing board to shred those crystal dunes when I make the trip.

April 16, 2012 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"endless glass ridges...with distorted reflections of constellations" et cetera - that's good prose. Thanks for the image of sublimity.

April 21, 2012 2:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

those in mars don't throw stones....yuk yuk yuk

April 22, 2012 11:23 AM  
Blogger Nick J Curry said...

The last sentence in the paragraph below the image is missing a word.

"...yet to be* mapped."

April 22, 2012 11:55 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Thanks, Nick - fixed it.

April 22, 2012 1:53 PM  

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