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New images reveal giant scar on Mars in striking detail

Published Jul 8th, 2024 4:20PM EDT
South polar cap on Mars

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Mars. It is one of our closest neighboring planets—and a planet that NASA hopes to send a manned space mission to in the 2030s. This beautiful and mysterious planet has long been the center of human space exploration, and now new images from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express Orbiter have given us a fresh look at a massive scar-like canyon on Mars.

The canyon, which appears as a dark “scar” on the surface of the planet, was likely birthed by magma that resided under a massive nearby volcano millions of years ago. The image is striking, with tons of detail, and you can even see the stripe-like sand dunes that surround the canyon on either side. All of this, astronomers say, is likely the result of extreme volcanic activity on the Red Planet millions of years ago.

scar-like canyon on MarsImage source: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

The scar-like canyon on Mars is officially named Aganippe Fossa. It’s a graben, which is essentially a “ditch-like groove with steep walls on either side,” the ESA explains. The canyon was first spotted in the 1930s, but it wasn’t officially named until 1976. This particular graben is incomplete, too, with some parts broken up by the surface ground around it.

The canyon is 375 miles long—when measured completely—and is longer than the Grand Canyon, which measures 277 miles from end to end. However, Aganippe Fossa is still much shorter than Mars’ other great canyon, Valles Marineris, which still holds the record for the largest canyon we’ve ever discovered in our solar system. That canyon runs over 2,500 miles across the equator of the Martian world.

These new images of the scar-like canyon on Mars were captured last year, and the ESA actually released them in December. However, they’ve begun making the rounds again because of how striking and full of detail the images are. If you look closely, you can see just how diverse the landscape of the Red Planet is—as even the surface around the scar varies greatly.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.