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Ten times longer than the Grand Canyon, and three times as deep, the Valles Marineris (The Mariner Valley) cuts through the surface of Mars.
Now, images released on Christmas Day, utilizing the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, show this mighty rift in stunning detail.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona More than five million years ago, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was slowly carved out by the flow of water in the Colorado River.
However, the flow of water may have played a role in shaping the Mariner Valley, deepening channels, assisting the formation of this massive planetary rift, researchers speculate.
Most researchers agree that Valles Marineris is a large tectonic ‘crack’ in the Martian crust, forming as the planet cooled, affected by the rising crust in the Tharsis region to the west, and subsequently widened by erosional forces,” NASA describes.
“Strong water flows may have reshaped Valles Marineris after it was formed, deepening the canyon.
Mineralogical information collected by orbiting spacecraft, including Mars Express, shows that the terrain here was altered by water hundreds of millions of years ago,” The European Space Agency reports.
Mars has secrets to share — and 2021 promises to bring us all a new wealth of knowledge (and stunning images) from the Red Planet.