Anyone who has visited the Grand Canyon in the United States knows just how large it is. The Grand Canyon sure lives up to its name, but it has nothing on a canyon on Mars. NASA released new images of the largest valley in the solar system, nearly ten times the length of the Grand Canyon and three times its depth.
The valley is known as Valles Marineris, and it is a deep and wide canyon system that stretches more than 2,500 miles along the equator of Mars. The Gigantic Canyon System stretches over approximately 25 percent of the entire circumference of Mars. To put that into perspective, compared to the Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris is about ten times longer and three times deeper.
The new images were taken with the HiRISE Camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One of the greatest mysteries about Mars is how exactly such a huge system formed the canyon. On Earth, the Grand Canyon was formed over billions of years by the flow of water.
NASA says Mars is so hot and dry that there was no river big enough to two cut off its shell and create a massive canyon system. The European Space Agency says there is evidence that the flowing water deepened some of the canals’ canals hundreds of millions of years ago.
Scientists believe that most of the valley likely opened up billions of years ago when a large group of nearby volcanoes known as the Tharsis region first protruded from the Martian soil. Magma rising beneath massive volcanoes, including Olympus Mons, would have stretched and torn the crust, which finally collapsed into the basins and valleys that make up Valles Marineris today. Evidence suggests that the canyon system has been further carved out by landslides, magma flows, and ancient rivers after their formation.