Mars Express, the mission to explore the planet Mars being conducted by the European Space Agency, has recently captured high resolution images of a fascinating landscape on the surface of the planet.
The images show a “chaotic terrain” near the VallesMarineris, a major canyon system on Mars. The Mars Express orbiter, which carries a High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), has been performing scientific measurements successfully since 2004, a year after its launch from Earth.
The new images show the valleys, craters and chaotic terrain of the PyrrhaeRegio, which is located to the south of Eos Chasma. Eos Chasma lies in the eastern branch of the VallesMarineris.
In the left side of the frame, a scattering of craters can be seen which is believed to have been formed due to the impact of various incoming celestial objects from space on the surface of the planet, much like the meteorites that hit the Earth. The surface looks smoother towards the middle of the frame with the exception of a few spots.
The floor of the largest and uppermost basin spans about 40 km and contains some fractures and markings that formed just after the crater itself, according to a report by sci-news.
It is believed that the crater-forming collision resulted in the formation of the hot, molten rock, which after being cooled settled to form like scar-like features on the surface of the planet.
The chaotic or irregular terrain forms as a subsurface layer of melting ice which keeps on shifting, causing the surface above it to collapse. In the image of chaotic terrain captured, the ice has melted leading to the water being drained away. The resulting empty cavities, which earlier hosted ice, are filled with a number of distinct broken blocks.
A chaos terrain usually consists of large irregular blocks, which can span tens of kilometers and reach over a hundred metres high. The depressions formed by the blocks can be hundreds of metres deep.
VallesMarineris runs along the equator of Mars, east of the Tharsis region. It stretches about 4,000 km which is about ten times longer than the Grand Canyon and the craters go as deep as 7 km.
It is believed to have been formed as a result of volcanic activity that stretched the planet’s crust. It consists of numerous channels, rifts, fractures and sigs of flowing material like water, lava, ice or debris.