clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NASA released stunning new images of Mars’ ‘Grand Canyon,’ the largest canyon in our solar system

The ‘Valles Marineris’ on Mars is nearly 10 times as long and 3 times as deep as Earth’s Grand Canyon.

This undated photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and made available by NASA on Thursday, March 28, 2019 shows the asteroid (6478) Gault that is gradually self-destructing.
This undated photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and made available by NASA on Thursday, March 28, 2019 shows the asteroid (6478) Gault that is gradually self-destructing.
Associated Press

There’s a sprawling canyon system on Mars that is nearly 10 times as long and three times as deep as Earth’s Grand Canyon, making it the largest ravine in the solar system.

Known as ‘l”Valles Marineris,” the canyon system spans over 2,500 miles across the Martian equator (the distance between Los Angeles and New York City), accounting for nearly a quarter of the planet’s circumference, USA Today reports. According to the site, scientists are using an ultra high-resolution camera to study how the geological formation came to be.

The special camera is called HiRISE (short for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) and it’s positioned aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; scientists at the University of Arizona have been using it to take close-up shots of the planet’s strangest features since 2006, Live Science reports.

Recently, the university released a series of astounding photos of Valles Marineris that display some of the formation’s most impressive details, USA Today reports. One of the images was recently uploaded to twitter:

The University of Arizona has a webpage that is solely dedicated to the HiRISE camera. The site posts one HiRISE photo every day and has done so since Dec. 1, 2018. You can view the entire gallery here. The HiRISE official Twitter account also posts photos regularly:

Unlike our Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris probably wasn’t carved out by rushing water, Live Science reports. According to the site, the planet’s climate is too hot and dry to have ever accommodated a river large enough to create such an impressive ravine.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), a majority of the canyon probably formed billions of years ago when a group of nearby super-volcanoes (known as the Tharsis region) was first breaking through the planet’s crust, Live Science reports. According to their theory, the enormous amount of volcanic event could have caused a split in Mars’ crust that initially created the ravine, and millions of years of weathering and erosion could have expanded it.

According to USA Today, future analysis of high-resolution photos like these will provide scientists with more clues to solve the puzzling origin story of the solar system’s grandest canyon.