First ever near-true color presentation of the largest canyon of the Solar System

Valles Marineris in near true color (Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum))

Valles Marineris is the largest canyon of the Solar System still found. It has the length of 4000 km i.e. ten times longer than Earth’s Grand Canyon, width of 200 km and depth of 10 km i.e. five times deeper than the Earth’s Grand Canyon.

For the first time scientists from ESA have made online the view of Valles Marineris developed from the data captured during 20 individual orbits of ESA’s Mars Express. This view is 45 degrees to the surface in near-true color and comes with four times vertical exaggeration.  This image covers an area of 630 000 sq km. 20 individual HRSC orbits helped in the creation of the digital terrain model while 12 orbit swaths generated the colored data.

From ESA,

The largest portion of the canyon, which spans right across the image, is known as Melas Chasma. Candor Chasma is the connecting trough immediately to the north, with the small trough Ophir Chasma beyond. Hebes Chasma can be seen in the far top left of the image.

This view is so much clear that most of the geological features are clear.

Olympus Mons, largest volcano of the Solar System is present on the left of the image, not seen in it, in the neighbouring Tharsis bulge. You can observe the volcanic activity, i.e. lava flows, by considering the nature of the rocks in the walls of the canyon and the neighbouring plains.

Landslides were also found to develop the canyon as presented in the northern-most troughs. Water was also responsible for reshaping the Valles Marinaris.

From ESA,

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.