There’s still so much we don’t know about Mars, but thanks to some recently released photos, we’ve gotten a much better look at the Red Planet’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. Although, that’s not exactly accurate: the one on Mars—called Valles Marineris—is nearly 10 times as long and three times as deep as ours on Earth. And while scientists still don’t know how the canyon formed, these new images from ongoing research at the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson provides a few more clues. Here’s how to take a look at the out-of-this-world (sorry) photos.
What makes this canyon so special?
Basically, it’s two things: it’s massive and mysterious. Per Space.com:
Known as Valles Marineris, this system of deep, vast canyons runs more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) along the Martian equator, spanning nearly a quarter of the planet’s circumference. This gash in the bedrock of Mars is nearly 10 times as long as Earth’s Grand Canyon and three times deeper, making it the single largest canyon in the solar system and…one of the most mysterious.
Given how hot and dry it is up on Mars, scientists don’t think that Valles Marineris was carved out by running water, like the Grand Canyon. Although, researchers from the European Space Agency (ESA) have said that there is evidence that flowing water may have deepened some of the canyon’s existing channels—though that would have been hundreds of millions of years ago.
How to see the new images of the canyon on Mars
These are the latest photos released using an incredibly high-resolution camera called HiRISE (short for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) that’s aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. To check out these, or any of the other photos of the canyon (or taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), visit the University of Arizona in Tucson’s HiRISE website.