The mystery of the largest canyon in the solar system

The mystery of the largest canyon in the solar system

This place is almost ten times longer than the Grand Canyon and three times deeper. Where is it and how was it formed?

Valles Marineris, or Mariner Valley, on Mars is the largest canyon in the solar system found to date. This system of deep, extensive canyons extends 4,000 kilometers along the Martian equator, covering nearly a quarter of the planet’s circumference. Not only is this fissure in the rocks of Mars larger than the others, it is also the most mysterious, say scientists from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Using the incredibly high-resolution HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have been taking close-up pictures of the planet’s strangest objects since 2006. Despite all the findings, astrophysicists are still unsure how the giant canyon complex on Mars was formed.

The Titonia Chasm (part of Mariner Valley) is riddled with diagonal lines of sediment, which may indicate ancient cycles of freezing and thawing. The canyon was probably formed by the flow of water over billions of years, but the Red Planet is too hot and dry to have ever had a river large enough to cut through the ground so deeply. A nearby supergroup of volcanoes known as the Farsida region may have played a role in the formation of the canyon.

The results are published in Live Science.