Two great chasms in Mars' Valles Marineris canyon.

There’s a canyon on Mars that makes the Grand Canyon look small.

The European Space Agency (ESA) recently released rich images of two great chasms, or trenches, in this great canyon system, called Valles Marineris. The ESA’s Mars Express orbiter snapped the shots from above.

  • On left is the over 520-mile-long (840-kilometer) Ius Chasma

  • On right is the 500-mile-long (805-kilometer) Tithonium Chasma

These great chasms, which reach up to some 4.3 miles deep, are just a section of Valles Marineris. (For reference, the Grand Canyon reaches just over a mile down.) “As the largest canyon system in the Solar System, it would span the distance from the northern tip of Norway to the southern tip of Sicily,” the ESA said in a statement.

Mars' Valles Marineris

Two great trenches in Mars’ Valles Marineris, Ius Chasma and Tithonium Chasma.
Credit: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

a map showing the depths of Valles Marineris

A map showing the section of Valles Marineris imaged by the Mars Express orbiter.
Credit: NASA / MGS / MOLA Science Team

These great chasms are thought to have formed by the ancient activity of tectonic plates moving apart, the ESA explains. (Today on geologically-active Earth, tectonic plates are currently moving apart at places like the mid-Atlantic Ridge.)

Although Mars isn’t nearly as geologically active today, it’s not nearly dead. Sizable quakes still shake the Martian land, perhaps triggered by magma, or molten rock, welling up and stressing the surface. The NASA probe InSight has recorded over 1,300 quakes on Mars (as of early May 2022).

“Mars remains active, just not as active as Earth,” Mark Panning, a planetary scientist and NASA’s InSight lander project manager, told Mashable.

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