August 10, 2022

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Pictures from Mars of the largest valley in the solar system

New “postcards” from Mars sent by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express probe show the depths of the solar system’s largest valley, the Valles Marineris. It is a system of valleys and canals so extensive that it can range from the northern tip of Norway to the southern tip of Sicily: 4000 kilometers long, 200 kilometers wide and up to 7 kilometers deep, which is almost ten times as long. Long, 20 times wider and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States.

Unlike the latter, formed by the Colorado River, the Valles Marineris system is believed to have been formed by displacement of tectonic plates: this violent movement on Mars’ surface would have created a rough bottom, as shown in new high-resolution images captured by Mars Express.

The spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, used a High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) to focus on Ius Chasma and Tithonium Chasma, two deep valleys found in the western part of Valles Marineris: the first is 840 meters long. The second is 805 kilometers.

In the images it is possible to appreciate the various characteristics of the Martian surface: you can recognize dark sand dunes resulting from volcanic activity, wind-eroded mountain-like ridges, smaller outcrops probably formed by the evaporation of water once it filled the gap, and finally the remains of a landslide caused by the collapse of the valley wall .

The images of Valles Marineris a few days later follow the equally intriguing images taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, which photographed in an unexplored region of Jezero crater a mysterious tangle of wires, which immediately ended up in the center of attention. on social media. According to NASA, one of the remnants of the landing system of the same craft that got there could be due to Martian winds.

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