Valles Marineris

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Valles Marineris cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars
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Valles Marineris cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars

Valles Marineris (Latin for Mariner Valley, named after the Mariner 9 Mars orbiter of 1971-72 which discovered it.) is a vast canyon system that runs along the Martian equator just east of the Tharsis region. Valles Marineris is 4000 km (2500 mi) long and reaches depths of up to 7 km (4 mi) and widths of up to 200 km (125 mi).

The canyon extends from the Noctis Labyrinthus region in the west to the chaotic terrain in the east. Most researchers agree that Valles Marineris is a large tectonic "crack" in the Martian crust, forming as the planet cooled, affected by the rising crust in the Tharsis region to the west, and subsequently widened by erosional forces. However, near the eastern flanks of the rift there appear to be some channels that may have been formed by water.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

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