Breathtaking images taken from orbit show the Grand Canyon of Mars

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Similar to the Grand Canyon on Earth, Valles Marineris spans Mars, except it’s tiny in comparison. Almost ten times longer, twenty times wider and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris is nearly 4,000 kilometers long, 200 kilometers wide and up to 7 kilometers deep.

In the latest image released by ESA’s Mars Express , we get a unique glimpse of two ruptures in the Martian crust that are part of the mighty Valles Marineris canyon system.

Since 2003, Mars Express has been in orbit around the red planet, imaging its surface, mapping its minerals, identifying the planet’s tenuous atmosphere and mapping its circulation, probing the depths of the crust and studying the various associated phenomena. to March.

Similar to the Grand Canyon on Earth, the Valles Marineris spans Mars, except it’s tiny in comparison. Almost ten times longer, twenty times wider and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris is nearly 4,000 kilometers long, 200 kilometers wide and up to 7 kilometers deep.

In this image you can see in 3D Ius and Tithonium Chasmata, which are part of the Valles Marineris canyon structure on Mars. The image was created using the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) aboard ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft on April 21, 2022. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

In terms of size, it spans the distance between the northern tip of Norway and the southern tip of Sicily. This makes it the largest canyon system in the solar system.

Another difference is that while the Grand Canyon was formed by the erosive power of the Colorado River, Valles Marineris was formed when the tectonic plates pushed apart.

Two trenches (or chasms) are visible in the image. They are located in the western part of Valles Marineris. Ius Chasma (left) is 840 kilometers long; Tithonium Chasma (right) is 805 kilometers long.

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The structure of the Valles Marineris canyon on Mars is shown in this image from ESA’s Mars Express. NASA/MGS/MOLA science team.

Although these high resolution images show incredible surface detail, it is only by looking at the elevation maps (see above) that we realize just how deep these sinkholes can be – up to 7km depth !

Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, would appear dwarfed inside Tithonium Chasma at 4809m.

A patch of dark sand rises from Tithonium Chasma, bringing color contrast to the image. A nearby volcanic region called Tharsis may have provided this sand.

A digital terrain model and the nadir and color channels from Mars Express’ high-resolution stereo camera were used to create this oblique perspective view of Tithonium Chasmata, part of Mars’ Valles Marineris canyon structure. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Two light-colored mounds sit next to the dark sand dunes (the upper border partially intersects one).

Rising more than 3000 meters high, these “mounds” are more like mountains. Strong winds from Mars eroded the surface of these rocks badly, suggesting that they are made of weaker material than nearby rocks.

A digital terrain model and the nadir and color channels from Mars Express’ high-resolution stereo camera were used to create this oblique perspective view of Tithonium Chasmata, part of Mars’ Valles Marineris canyon structure. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

The second perspective view shows a series of smaller bumps between the two mounds. This region is known to contain water-bearing sulfate minerals, discovered by Mars Express.

The bumps could be caused by liquid evaporating from the chasma, although this theory is still controversial.

In the second perspective view, we see parallel lines and clumps of debris on the lower right of the mound which we can see in full. These are indications of a recent landslide. A large purple area is also visible in the topographic image below.

The structure of the Valles Marineris de Mars canyon is shown in this color-coded topographic image. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

This landslide was caused by the collapse of the canyon wall on the right, and it may have occurred relatively recently since it was not severely eroded.

Equally fascinating is exploring the gnarled soil of Ius Chasma. In the process of separating the tectonic plates, triangles of jagged rock seem to have formed and look like rows of shark teeth. This rock formation has collapsed and eroded over time.

These new images were taken with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), which reveals many features of the surface of Mars, including wind-sculpted ridges, impact craters, river channels and basins of Mars. wash.

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