These are various sections of Ius Chasma and Tithonium Chasma , two picturesquely different tectonic rifts in the western Valles Marineris on Mars, the gigantic canyon system that runs along the equator of the planet Mars just east of the Tharsis region.
The European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter as it passes through Martian orbit has captured this spectacular snapshot that makes the largest canyons on Earth seem like a mini version compared to the great canyon of the red planet. And there is nothing on our planet that is comparable to this canyon 4,000 kilometers long and more than 320 kilometers wide (and more than 7 km deep). It is almost 10 times longer and 20 times wider than the famous Grand Canyon of Colorado in North America.
Segment images of Mars Express include sections of two chasmata , Ius on the left and Tithonium on the right. Detailed study of the details of these amazing natural structures could help scientists understand the geology and geological history of Mars.
The ESA image shows a deep gulf of orange sand outlined by jagged cliffs and pockmarked by craters from previous impacts, a timely reminder of the extraordinary and lonely grandeur of our solar system.
“While these high-resolution images show incredible surface detail, it is only when we look at an elevation map that we realize how spectacularly deep the chasmata are, up to 7 km,” the ESA researchers said.
In Tithonium Chasma , a patch of dark sand adds color contrast to the image. This sand may have come from the nearby Tharsis volcanic region. Alongside the dark sand dunes are two light-toned mounds. These ‘mounds’ are more like mountains, over 3km high. Their surfaces have been heavily eroded by Mars’ strong winds, indicating that they are made of material weaker than the surrounding rock.
ESA’s Mars Express has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003 to image its surface. In all this time he has captured several interesting and strange photographs that make us even more intrigued to get to know our dusty neighbor planet up close.
Reference: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin.