The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express rover robot has captured a new view of the largest canyon in the Solar System. The 4,000-km-long canyon was named Valles Marineris, which is called the Grand Canyon of the Red Planet.
The spacecraft, which has been exploring Mars since 2003, has revealed incredible details from the bottom of a canyon that reaches a depth of nearly seven kilometers, up to five times deeper than the Great Valley in the United States.
There are two large “chasmas” or moats that form the western part of Valles Marineris. The Ius Chasma extends for 840 kilometers on the south side of the valley, while the length of Tithonium Chasma is 805 kilometers in the north. They cover only about one-fifth of the total area of Veles Marineris.
These stunning photos were taken by the high-resolution stereo camera last April, when Mars Express completed its 23,123rd orbit of the planet. The quality is so clear that it could help ESA scientists produce close-perspective images of the titonium spectacles that resemble aerial photographs. In the trenches we can see deep sand dunes, huge mountains and landslides, which are described in the attached map.
While the steep valleys on Earth were formed by the erosion of river water, scientists believe that Valles Marineris was formed by tectonic activity on Mars three billion years ago.
Scientists recently discovered reservoirs of water ice hidden beneath the surface of the canyon may suggest that Valles Marineris was flooded at a time when the Martian surface was wetter and warmer than it is today.