Stunning Images of Valles Marineris – Solar System’s largest canyon

The Grand Canyon, at 277 miles long, a mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide, is the largest canyon in the world. The canyon’s layered band of bedrock reveals millions of years of Earth’s geological history.

But the Grand Canyon is not the largest in our solar system. The largest canyon of our solar system is about 87 million miles from Earth on the Red Planet. The canyon known as Valles Marineris is about 2500 miles long and three times deeper than our Grand Canyon.

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Scientists from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson has been capturing very high-resolution images of the Valles Marineris using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) since 2006. The images provide a great level of details of the canyon’s features. However, the canyon’s formation is still a mystery for scientists.

A close-up photo of part of Mars’ Valles Marineris, the single largest canyon in the solar system.
Image: © NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Unlike the Grand Canyon, the Valles Marineris was not formed by river water. Mars is too hot and too dry to support a river large enough to carve such a massive canyon. However, evidence from the European Space Agency (ESA) suggests that flowing water might have deepened some of the canyon’s existing channels hundreds of millions of years ago.

According to ESA, most of the canyon would have cracked open when a nearby Tharsis region of volcanoes was first thrusting out. The bubbling magma would have stretched, ripped, and collapsed the martian crust into the troughs and valleys that we know as Valles Marineris today. Evidence suggests that subsequent landslides, magma flows, and ancient rivers would have continued to carve the canyon for hundreds of millions of years.

High-resolution images like these will help in the analysis and determination of the origin of this martian feature.

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Source: Livescience

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