Mars Express provides a look at ancient Martian flooding
European Space Agency (ESA) has released new imagery captured by its
long-serving Mars Express orbiter. The new images are presented in
false color, detailing an area that once played host to huge volumes
of water, leaving scars across the Red Planet's surface.
In the past, ESA's Mars Express probe has provided us with a wealth of new information about Mars, helping scientists to decipher its geological history and even giving us a look at the Red Planet's rare auroras.
The stunning new imagery reveals the western part of the Arda Valles – a huge drainage system located close to Ladon Valles, and some 160 miles (260 km) north of Holden Crater. Numerous fascinating features can be seen in the spectacular photos, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the probe on July 20, 2015.
The imagery is presented as topographic view of the landscape, with red and white representing the highest points of terrain, while blues and purple tones indicate lower areas. The resolution is roughly equal to 14 m (46 ft) per pixel.
On the left section of the image, a large pattern of drainage valleys can clearly be seen, with many smaller streams merging into larger tributaries, and eventually flowing down to the low, flat ground of the basin seen in the lower right.
Another notable feature – a 25 km (15.5 mile)-wide impact crater – can be seen in the center right of the image. The ground covering the floor of the crater is notable for its chaotic nature, which is thought to be the result of collapsed layer of muddy sediment.
Lastly, there are numerous fracture-like features across the image. Those seen in the top right section are thought to have been caused by the loss of underground ice, as well as the general evaporation of water, which was once highly abundant in the region. The long fractures seen in the basin section of the image are also thought to have formed as the region slowly dried out.
The Mars Explorer orbiter has been in place around the Red Planet since December 2003, at which point it attempted to deliver the Beagle 2 lander to the surface, an effort that was later declared unsuccessful when the lander failed to establish contact with the spacecraft. Despite that early failure, the probe has continued to send home stunning and insightful imagery throughout its 12-year stay around Mars.