Mars’ Grander Canyon: New NASA Images Reveal Depths Of Solar System’s Largest Gorge

T

he Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most impressive sites on the planet. But that’s just a scratch from the equivalent on Mars, new images reveal.

Known as the Valles Marineris, this system of deep canyons stretches over 2,500 miles along the Martian equator, covering almost a quarter of the planet’s circumference.

This gash in Mars’ bedrock is nearly 10 times longer than Earth’s Grand Canyon and three times as deep, making it the largest canyon in the solar system. New images of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal details of its colossal size.

The photos were taken using the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), the most powerful camera ever sent to another planet. It is one of six instruments aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the University of Arizona said.

“Unlike Earth’s Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris was probably not carved out by billions of years of living water; the Red Planet is too hot and dry to ever have hosted a river large enough to split through the crust like that, ”LiveScience said.

The European Space Agency says the canyon’s formation is likely intimately linked to the formation of the nearby Tharsis bulge, home to the solar system’s largest volcano, Olympus Mons.

As the Tharsis bulge swelled with magma over the planet’s first billion years, the surrounding crust stretched, tore, and eventually collapsed into the gigantic hollows of Valles Marineris.

Further analysis of high-resolution photos like these will help solve the puzzling story of the origin of the largest canyon in the solar system, according to LiveScience.


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Arline J. Mercier

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