Mars’ Grander Canyon: New NASA Images Reveal Depths Of Solar System’s Largest Gorge

T

he Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most impressive sites on the planet. But that’s just a scratch from the Mars equivalent, new images reveal.

Known as the Valles Marineris, this system of deep canyons stretches over 2,500 miles along the Martian equator, covering nearly a quarter of the planet’s circumference.

This gash in Mars’ bedrock is almost 10 times longer than Earth’s Grand Canyon and three times deep, making it the largest canyon in the solar system. New images of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal details of its colossal size.

The photos were taken using HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), the most powerful camera ever sent to another planet. It is one of six instruments aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the University of Arizona said.

NASA’s Mars crawler Spirit descends to the surface of Mars, where the craters are clearly visible. Picture: .
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NASA’s Mars crawler Spirit descends to the surface of Mars, where the craters are clearly visible. Picture: .

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The second step shows a computer image of a set of inflatable balloons descending on the surface of Mars. The balloons bounced up to 40 times on the surface before deflating and releasing the Nasa Spirit rover.
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The second step shows a computer image of a set of inflatable balloons descending on the surface of Mars. The balloons bounced up to 40 times on the surface before deflating and releasing the Nasa Spirit rover.

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The first images of the Spirit spacecraft have been returned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which controls the mission. The Martian surface can be seen under an airbag that helped land on January 3.
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The first images of the Spirit spacecraft have been returned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which controls the mission. The Martian surface can be seen under an airbag that aided the landing on January 3.

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An image is taken of the surface of Mars from the Spirit exploration rover after it lands and deploys its protective airbags in the Israel-sized Gusev Crater.
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An image is taken of the surface of Mars from the Spirit exploration rover after it lands and deploys its protective airbags in the Israel-sized Gusev Crater.

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A computer-generated image shows how the rover extended its front legs and exited the lander, it is able to roam the flat, windswept Martian plain that appears to be dotted with small boulders.
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A computer-generated image shows how the rover extended its front legs and exited the lander, it is able to roam the flat, windswept Martian plain that appears to be dotted with small boulders.

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Artist’s impression of the Mars exploration rover leaving its launch equipment. The six-wheeled vehicle is expected to scour the rocky surface of the Red Planet in search of geological evidence that Mars was once suitable for life.
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Artist’s impression of the Mars exploration rover leaving its launch equipment. The six-wheeled vehicle is expected to scour the rocky surface of the Red Planet in search of geological evidence that Mars was once suitable for life.

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This NASA image shows the golf cart-sized Spirit rover on the surface of Mars, exploring the planet’s geology for evidence of past water activity in rocks and soil .
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This NASA image shows the golf cart-sized Spirit rover on the surface of Mars, exploring the planet’s geology for evidence of past water activity in rocks and soil .

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Scientists from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory embrace as they watch the first images arriving in California from the Spirit on Mars exploration rover.
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Scientists from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory embrace each other as they watch the first images arriving in California of the Spirit on Mars exploration rover.

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Pete Theisinger, Mars Exploration Rover Mission Project Manager raises a glass of champagne to celebrate the safe landing of the Spirit rover on January 3
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Pete Theisinger, Mars Exploration Rover Mission Project Manager raises a glass of champagne to celebrate the safe landing of the Spirit rover on January 3

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The Spirit space probe returned the most detailed color images of Mars on Tuesday, January 6, revealing a dusty, windswept plain littered with rocks
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The Spirit space probe returned the most detailed color images of Mars on Tuesday, January 6, revealing a dusty, windswept plain littered with rocks.

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Jim Bell, a member of the NASA team, said: “I am in shock and awe. We designed Spirit to do this, so we shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s a spectacular detail.
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Jim Bell, a member of the NASA team, said: “I am in shock and awe. We designed Spirit to do this, so we shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s a spectacular detail.

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“Unlike Earth’s Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris was probably not carved out by billions of years of precipitated water; the red planet is too hot and dry to have ever hosted a river big enough to cross the crust like this, ”LiveScience said.

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The European Space Agency said the formation of the canyon is likely intimately linked to the formation of the nearby Tharsis bulge, which is home to the solar system’s largest volcano, Olympus Mons.

As the Tharsis bulge swelled with magma for the planet’s first billion years, the surrounding crust stretched, tearing apart and eventually collapsing into the gigantic hollows of Valles Marineris.

According to LiveScience, further analysis of high-resolution photos like these will help solve the astonishing origin story of the solar system’s largest canyon.

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