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Deep fractures and water-carved valleys

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Mars presents fascinating geology wherever you look. Nowhere is this truer than in the cracked and wrinkled ground seen in this image from ESA. Mars Express.

Scene captured by Mars Express Orbiter High Definition Stereo Camera (HRSC), with the flanks of a vast volcanic plateau called the Thaumasia Planum. As can be seen most clearly in the associated topographic map, the highest visible feature here is a whopping 4500 m higher than the lowest feature. Many are thought to have changed little since they formed nearly 4 billion years ago, providing a glimpse into the early days of Mars.

Terrain of Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles

shifting plate

Perspective view of Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles

This complex region appears to have been formed by tectonics (deformation of the planet’s crust) and past flowing water.

Mars no longer shows signs of active tectonics, but that is not always the case.

Mars’ crust once experienced great stress in this region, creating deep surface fissures known today as nectaris fosses. They are visible as near-vertical scars in the center of the image, which have since been filled with bright dust.They are believed to have formed in connection with Colossus Valles Marineris Canyon System, the largest such system not only on Mars, but also in the solar system. Valles Marineris is just north (on the right) of this area.

water flowing

After tectonism recreated this patch of Mars, water flowed across the surface, cutting into rocks and carving out deep valleys (features named protova vales – plural ‘vales’, referring to waterways). . These channels can be seen spread across these images. Some are broad and superficial, while others are much deeper. The dense patch of water-sculpted valleys in the bottom right of the image is severely eroded.

Annotated: Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles

Protva Valles formed about 3.8 billion years ago when water was much more abundant on the surface of Mars and has changed little since then.

built on lava

Perspective of Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles

The underlying terrain here – the Thaumasia Planum – formed in Mars’ earliest days and consists mostly of massive lava flows several kilometers thick.

This is a tumultuous time, and many of Mars’ distinguishing features are just beginning to form.of Tarsis volcano, some of the largest in the solar system, lie near the Thaumasia Planum. The load and stress of these volcanic formations may have initiated the fragmentation of the area before these volcanoes flooded the area with lava.

Close-up of Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles

As these lava flows cool and solidify on the unstable, moving ground, they are compressed, creating ‘wrinkled ridges’. One of the most important ridges can be seen to the lower right of the center as an unstable diagonal line etched into the surface.

Following this massive resurfacing by the lava, the Taumasia Plain was blanketed in volcanic ash and dust before the water currents cut through the lava to form Protva Canyon. The origin of these water currents remains unknown.They appear to emerge at different heights, suggesting that water may have penetrated underground layer of Mars.

explore mars

Mars Express has been orbiting Mars since 2003, imaging the surface of Mars, mapping its minerals, determining the composition and circulation of its tenuous atmosphere, exploring beneath the crust, and exploring the Martian environment. We are investigating how they interact with

The mission’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) is located at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

Nectaris Fossae and Protva Valles in 3D

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