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Bird’s-eye View Above Mars! Valles Marineris

Credit: DLR

The spectacular Valles Marineris canyon system on the Red Planet dwarfs in size the U.S. Grand Canyon.

The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft has been taking image strips of the valley system since 2004. A mosaic view of the geological wonder – using 20 separate images — has been released by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). They operate the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express.

This stunning feature is up to 11 kilometers deep and 200 kilometers wide, stretching almost 4,000 kilometers across the Martian highlands in an east-west direction along the equator.

Indeed, the Grand Canyon in the United States (almost two kilometers deep) would easily fit into one of the smaller valleys that run parallel to Valles Marineris.

There are numerous signs of volcanism in Valles Marineris.

Later on, large volumes of water flowed through the valleys with great energy, changing the landscape of Valles Marineris and making the valley floor even deeper.

These rivers flowed in an easterly direction, along the arm of the valley in the right half of the image, and poured into a system of outflow channels running northwards, ending in the lowlands in Mars’ northern hemisphere. No water flows through Valles Marineris today.

The HRSC camera experiment on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission is headed by Principal Investigator, Professor Gerhard Neukum of Freie Universität Berlin.

By Leonard David

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