The mighty Valles Marineris gorge has been revealed in stunning new images from the European Space Agency Mars To express.
At 2,485 miles long, over 124 miles wide and more than 4 miles deep, the Red Planet’s canyon makes America downright puny by comparison. Valles Marineris would span the distance from the northern tip of Norway to the southern tip of Sicily.
The new image shows two ditches or canyons forming part of the western part of Valles Marineris. On the left is the 521-mile Lus Chasma and on the right is the 500-mile Tithonium Chasma.
The image uses data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express and is a ‘true color’ image, meaning it shows what the human eye would see when looking at this region of Mars.
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This oblique perspective view of Tithonium Chasma (pictured above), part of the Valles Marineris canyon structure on Mars, was created from the digital terrain model and the nadir and color channels of the high-resolution stereo camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.
The red planet’s massive canyon has been revealed in new images released by ESA. The new image shows two ditches or canyons forming part of the western part of Valles Marineris. On the left is the 521-mile Lus Chasma and on the right is the 500-mile Tithonium Chasma
At 2,485 miles long, over 124 miles wide, and more than 4 miles deep, the Red Planet’s canyon makes America’s Grand Canyon seem downright puny by comparison
This image of Tithonium Chasma shows parallel lines and debris piles (upper right) indicating a recent landslide
Shown above is an illustration of an oblique view of the vast Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars. The canyons were formed by a combination of geological faulting, landslides, and erosion by wind and ancient water flows
Considered in terms of altitude, the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc, which rises over 15,000 feet above sea level, would be dwarfed if placed in the Tithonium Chasma.
Unlike America’s Grand Canyon, which was formed about 5 million years ago when the Colorado River eroded rock, the Red Planet’s massive canyon is thought to have been formed by the drifting of tectonic plates.
At the top of Tithonium Chasma, a patch of dark sand – possibly from a nearby volcanic region – brings color contrast to the image.
Next to the dark sand dunes are two light-colored hills, one of which is bisected by the top of the image.
This image taken by the Mars Express shows a perspective view of a mesa in the regions east of the Valles Marineris, the largest canyons in the solar system
The red planet’s massive Valles Marineris, spanning almost a quarter of the planet’s circumference, are visible at the top (center) of this image from the Granger Collection
Lus and Tithonium Chasmata are seen above. The area outlined by the bold white box shows the area imaged by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera on April 21, 2022 while in orbit
MARS: THE BASICS
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, with an “almost dead” dusty, cold desert world with a very thin atmosphere.
Mars is also a dynamic planet with seasons, polar ice caps, canyons, dormant volcanoes and evidence that it was even more active in the past.
It is one of the best-studied planets in the solar system and the only planet that humans have equipped rovers to explore.
A day on Mars lasts just over 24 hours and there are 687 Earth days in a year.
facts and figures
orbital period: 687 days
surface: 144.8 million km²
distance from the sun: 227.9 million km
heaviness: 3,721 m/s²
radius: 3,389.5 km
moons: Phobos, Deimos
These hills are indeed gigantic, rising over 9,800 feet in height. For comparison, Mount Hesperus in Alaska, the highest peak in the Revelation Mountains, rises 9,828 feet.
The surfaces of the hills have been significantly eroded by Martian strong winds: typical wind speeds on the Red Planet average 125 miles per hour, with gusts reaching 300-375 miles per hour.
A series of smaller elevations can be seen between the two large hills.
According to ESA, the Mars Express has already found aquiferous sulfate minerals in this region.
The space agency says this suggests the bumps formed as liquid that once filled the chasma evaporated — but that point is debated by scientists.
“To the lower right of the mound that we see in full (upper right in the second perspective view) we can see parallel lines and debris piles that indicate a recent landslide,” says ESA in a expression.
This evidence can also be seen in the topography image below.
‘The landslide was caused by the collapse of the gorge wall on the right and is likely to have occurred relatively recently as it was not heavily eroded,’ explains ESA.
“The gnarled ground of Ius Chasma is equally fascinating.
“As tectonic plates have been pulled apart, they appear to have created jagged triangles of rock that look like a row of shark teeth.”
Over time, the rock formations have collapsed and eroded.
ESA’s Mars Express has orbited the red planet since 2003 to conduct a wide range of scientific experiments, including imaging the surface of Mars, mapping its minerals, determining the composition and circulation of its atmosphere, and soundings beneath its crust.
NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover did explore almost a year and a half on the red planet. The American space agency wants to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceXhas long said that humans must colonize Mars and become a multiplanetary species in order to preserve consciousness and expand it into the cosmos.
Pictured above: A color-coded topographical image showing Ius and Tithonium Chasmata, part of the Valles Marineris canyon structure on Mars, created from data collected by ESA’s Mars Express
Pictured above is a computer rendering of the Red Planet’s Valles Marineris Canyon, the largest canyon in the Solar System