From ESA: “A witness to a wet early Mars”

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European Space Agency

19 November 2015

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This image focuses on a section of Aurorae Chaos and Ganges Chasma on Mars. Aurorae Chaos measures roughly 710 km across (a smaller section is shown here) and plunges some 4.8 km below the surrounding terrain.

Vast volumes of water once flooded through this deep chasm on Mars that connects the ‘Grand Canyon’ of the Solar System – Valles Marineris – to the planet’s northern lowlands. The image was acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera [HRSC] on Mars Express on 16 July 2015 during orbit 14653.

ESA Mars Express HRSC Camera
HRSC

ESA Mars Express Orbiter
Mars Express

The image is centred on 8ºS/320ºE. The ground resolution is about 17 m per pixel. Vast volumes of water once flooded through this deep chasm on Mars that connects the ‘Grand Canyon’ of the Solar System – Valles Marineris – to the planet’s northern lowlands.The image, taken by ESA’s Mars Express on 16 July, focuses on Aurorae Chaos, close to the junction of Ganges, Capri and Eos Chasmata.

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This context image shows part of the Aurorae Chaos and Ganges Chasma region of Mars that was imaged by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express on 16 July 2015 during orbit 14653 (large white outline)

Aurorae Chaos measures roughly 710 km across (a smaller section is shown here) and plunges some 4.8 km below the surrounding terrain.

The region is rich in features pointing to wet episodes in the history of the Red Planet. Dominating the southern (left) portion of the scene are numerous jumbled blocks – ‘chaotic terrain’, believed to form when the surface collapses in response to melting of subsurface ice and the subsequent sudden release of water.

Towards the centre of the image is the smoother floor of Ganges Chasma, comprising mostly alluvial deposits, and which transitions into a steep scarp and a cratered plateau to the north (right).

The northern plateau shares the same elevation as that on the southern side, but does not exhibit similar levels of catastrophic collapse.

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Close-up of features in Ganges Chasma, close to Aurorae Chaos. The image focuses on the valley walls in this region, which show evidence for slumping and landslides. Material closest to the valley floor shows a stepped morphology, which could reflect different water or ice levels over time. Small channels are observed on the cliff tops.

However, the cliff tops display small channels and the walls show evidence of slumped material or landslides – best seen in the perspective view. Material closest to the main chasma floor appears stepped, which could reflect different water or ice levels over time.

Another interesting feature can be seen towards the upper centre and to the left in the main images, where a pair of faults cuts through a collapsed block, and perhaps extends into the southern plateau at the top of the image.

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The colour-coded topographic view shows relative heights and depths of terrain in the Aurorae Chaos and Ganges Chasma region Mars. Red/white represents the highest terrain, and blues and purples show lower terrain. The image is based on a digital terrain model of the region, from which the topography of the landscape can be derived. The region was imaged by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express on 16 July 2015 during orbit 14653. The image is centred on 8ºS/320ºE. The ground resolution is about 17 m per pixel.

The faults could be the result of a tectonic event that occurred after the formation of the chaotic terrain, or they could be from simple subsidence.

This region is just a small subsection of a huge system of interconnected valleys and flood channels that emptied water into the northern plains, and which were most likely active in the first 1–2 billion years of Mars’ history.

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This anaglyph image showing part of the Aurorae Chaos and Ganges Chasma regions on Mars provides a 3D view of the landscape when viewed using stereoscopic glasses [at original article] with red–green or red–blue filters. The image is based on data acquired by the nadir channel and one stereo channel of the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express on 16 July 2015 during orbit 14653. The image is centred on 8ºS/320ºE. The ground resolution is about 17 m per pixel.

See the full article here .

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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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