Mars: Collapsed Canyon

Cuprates Map
Slice through the Valles Marineris, showing the highlighted area of interest. Credit: NASA/JPL

These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, show the detailed structure of Coprates Catena, a southern part of the Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars.

Coprates Catena is a chain of collapsed structures, which run parallel to the main valley Coprates Chasma.

These collapsed structures vary between 2500 and 3000 meters deep, which is far less than the depth of the main valley at 8000 metres. A few landslides can be seen on the valley walls.

The valley chains have no connection to the lowland plains as compared to the main valleys. This indicates that their origin is solely due to the expansion of the surface, or collapse, with removal of underlying material (possibly water or ice).

On the valley floor, brighter layers are exposed, which could be material of the same composition as seen in other parts of Valles Marineris, where sulphates have been measured by the OMEGA spectrometer instrument on board Mars Express.

 

marineris
Coprates in nadir view Credit: ESA

Image resolution has been decreased for use on the internet. The colour images were processed using the HRSC nadir (vertical view) and three colour channels.

The perspective views were calculated from the digital terrain model derived from the stereo channels.

The Valles Marineris region is one of the most studied areas on Mars. The canyon system is one of the major keys to the tectonic and volcanic history of this planet. Research on the sedimentary rocks and the products of erosion can also provide major insights into its climatic evolution.

Due to the stereo capability of the HRSC, the new image data gained can provide new insights into the geology of Mars. This will lead to a new, more precise reconstruction of Martian geological history.


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