Stunning new HD images show the largest canyon in our solar system


Ten times longer than the Grand Canyon and three times deeper, the Valles Marineris (The Mariner Valley) crosses the surface of Mars. This largest canyon in the solar system stretches 4000 km (2,500 miles) across the red planet, covering nearly a quarter of the circumference of this ruddy world.

Now, images released on Christmas Day, using HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, show this powerful flaw in stunning detail.

The faults of the Mariner Valley, recorded by HiRISE. Image credit: NASA / JPL / UArizona

Over five million years ago, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was slowly carved out by the flow of water from the Colorado River. But, despite the presence of large amounts of water on Mars in the ancient past, it is unlikely that water was the main cause responsible for the formation of its counterpart on Mars.

[Read: Meet the 4 scale-ups using data to save the planet]

However, the flow of water may have played a role in the formation of the Mariner Valley, deepening the channels, aiding in the formation of this huge planetary rift, the researchers speculate.

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The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived on Mars in 2006. Image credit: NASA

Billions of years ago the eruption of Martian volcanoes in the Tharsis region near the current canyon erupted, tearing the crust. This material then fell, forming the valley, the researchers suggest. Over the ensuing eons, landslides and magma flows (along with water) may have helped shape the site we know today.

“The canyon stretches from the Noctis Labyrinthus region in the west to chaotic terrain in the east. Most researchers agree that Valles Marineris is a large tectonic “fissure” in the Martian crust, forming as the planet cooled, affected by the rising crust in the Tharsis region in the west, and then widened by the forces of erosion ”, NASA describes.

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Another of the recently released images showing details seen in the Mariner Valley. Image credit: NASA / JPL / UArizona

The movement of the magma would have caused swelling of the ground near the region of Tharsis would have raised the Martian crust, resulting in fractures in the ground. This would have allowed groundwater to escape, causing the canyon to swell.

“Strong water flows may have reshaped Valles Marineris after its formation, deepening the canyon. Mineralogical information collected by orbiting spacecraft, including Mars Express, shows the terrain here has been altered by water. hundreds of millions of years ago. European Space Agency reports.

In February, a trio of spacecraft – from NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates – will arrive on the Red Planet. Included in these flights is the first helicopter ever designed to fly on another planet – Ingenuity.

Mars has secrets to share – and 2021 promises to bring a new wealth of knowledge (and stunning imagery) of the Red Planet to all of us.

This article was originally published on The cosmic companion through James maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He’s a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, broadcast on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomical news and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to discover the nature of the Universe.


Arline J. Mercier

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