Photo: Immense Mars Canyon Shows Evidence of Ancient Water

By Eliza Strickland | October 11, 2010 12:33 pm

Mars-canyonOK, Mars wins this contest for bragging rights. The photo above shows the Melas Chasma on Mars, which reaches a depth of 5.6 miles; it’s part of the staggering the Valles Marineris rift valley, which stretches almost 2,500 miles across the surface of the red planet. For comparison’s sake, our earthly Grand Canyon is 1.1 miles deep and 277 miles long.

This remarkable image was taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. In addition to giving us something neat to gawk at, the image also reveals evidence of Mars’s watery past.

Part of the canyon wall collapsed in multiple landslides in the distant past, with debris fanning out into the valley below. Scientists analyzing the texture of the rocks deposited by the landslides say they were transported by liquid water, water ice, or mud. [ScienceNOW]

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Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

  • Rhacodactylus

    Wow, that’s just stunning; it’s actually sort of hard to get a sense for the scale with numbers that large. I think it’s beyond my ability to visualize =)


  • tulsa

    That image is amazing! It is a life truly lucky when your around to see our civilization capturing these types of images of this quality.

  • Vex

    I was thinking the same thing, Rhaco. It takes your breath away!

  • ALee

    That looks more like a 3D rendering than a photo no? Pretty sure Mars has an atmosphere. Either way an impressive visual and interesting scientific insight re: the water.

  • Chicken Little

    Yeah, the rovers used parachutes to land.

  • Rob

    Impressive image. But is this a true photo or a montage draped over a 3D model? If it really is an photo, wow. And so too if not!

  • Eliza Strickland

    Ah, good questions. It’s my understanding that the High Resolution Stereo camera on board the Mars Express is taking photos. The European Space Agency says: “The HRSC is imaging the entire planet in full colour, 3D and with a resolution of about 10 metres.”

    But since the photos of the Melas Chasma were obviously taken from above, the researchers may have used some software program to create the “perspective view” above.

  • Ron Bennett

    Let’s send some ground hugging balloons to Mars to explore Melas Chasma up close and personal. The best vehicle to do this is the Martian Windsurfer first proposed in 2003 at the Mars Society Conference, a rover pulled by the wind and tethered to a balloon that can move over any terrain on Mars for over 1,000 kilometers, see here:$20Quality$20Video$20From$20Mars.pdf

  • WyzAker

    This is a true photo, of course. Mars is a cube, as we all know, and in the upper-left you can see a corner of it.

  • Orest

    Yup, picture is very realistic but without special software its impossible to do this. Also agree with Eliza.


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