A Mars satellite has taken some amazing pictures of the largest canyon in the solar system, called Valles Marineris. It stretches 2.500 miles across the red planet's equator.
Mars Express, a European Space Agency (ESA) mission that reached Mars in 2003, recently photographed the deepest parts of this canyon, whose slopes descend more than four miles into the Martian surface. The canyon is five times as deep as the Grand Canyon, according to the ESA announcement.
The photographs reveal two massive trenches, running parallel along the western part of Valles Marineris. These trenches are about 500 miles long each, making them twice the length of the Grand Canyon, and cover only about one-fifth of the full extent of the Valles Marineris.
Mars Express took these pictures in April with a High Resolution Stereo Camera, during its 23.123rd orbit around the planet.
The images are so sharp that ESA scientists used them to create close-up aerial views of the canyon.
The images show dark sand dunes, huge mountains, and landslides falling into the canyon, which are marked on an accompanying map.
Canyons on Earth are usually eroded by rivers flowing through them over millions of years. Scientists believe Valles Marineris was formed by tectonic activity on Mars more than three billion years ago.
Valles Marineris may also have harbored water billions of years ago, when Mars was wetter, warmer and potentially habitable.