NASA shows new images of huge Martian canyon


Anyone who has visited the Grand Canyon in the United States knows how massive it is. The Grand Canyon certainly lives up to its name, but it has nothing on a canyon on the surface of Mars. NASA has released new images of the largest canyon in the solar system, which is nearly ten times as long as the Grand Canyon and three times deeper.

The canyon is known as the Valles Marineris, and it is a deep and expansive canyon system that stretches over 2,500 miles along the equator of Mars. The massive canyon system covers almost 25% of the entire circumference of Mars. To put that in perspective, compared to the Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris is almost ten times as long and three times as deep.

The new images were taken using the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One of the great mysteries of Mars is how exactly such a massive canyon system formed. On Earth, the Grand Canyon was formed over billions of years by running water.

NASA says Mars is too hot and dry to ever have a river big enough to cross its crust and create the massive canyon system. ESA says there is evidence that running water could have deepened some of the canyon’s existing canals hundreds of millions of years ago.

Scientists believe the majority of the canyon likely cracked billions of years ago when a nearby supergroup of volcanoes, known as the Tharsis region, first protruded from Martian soil. The magma bubbling under massive volcanoes, including Olympus Mons, could have stretched and torn the crust, which eventually collapsed into the hollows and valleys that make up the Valles Marineris today. Evidence suggests the Canyon System was sculpted by landslides, magma flows, and ancient rivers after their formation.

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