Mars Express provides a look at ancient Martian flooding
TheEuropean Space Agency (ESA) has released new imagery captured by itslong-serving Mars Express orbiter. The new images are presented infalse color, detailing an area that once played host to huge volumesof water, leaving scars across the Red Planet's surface.
Inthe past, ESA's Mars Express probe has provided us with a wealth ofnew information about Mars, helping scientists to decipher its geological history and even giving us a look at the Red Planet's rare auroras.
Thestunning 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. Numerousfascinating features can be seen in the spectacular photos, taken bythe High Resolution Stereo Camera on the probe on July 20, 2015.
Theimagery is presented as topographic view of the landscape, with redand white representing the highest points of terrain, while blues andpurple tones indicate lower areas. The resolution is roughly equal to14 m (46 ft) per pixel.
Onthe left section of the image, a large pattern of drainagevalleys can clearly be seen, with many smaller streams merging intolarger tributaries, and eventually flowing down to the low, flatground of the basin seen in the lower right.
Anothernotable feature – a 25 km (15.5 mile)-wide impact crater – can beseen in the center right of the image. The ground covering the floorof the crater is notable for its chaotic nature, which is thought tobe the result of collapsed layer of muddy sediment.
Lastly,there are numerous fracture-like features across the image. Thoseseen in the top right section are thought to have been caused by theloss of underground ice, as well as the general evaporation of water,which was once highly abundant in the region. The long fractures seenin the basin section of the image are also thought to have formed asthe region slowly dried out.
TheMars Explorer orbiter has been in place around the Red Planet sinceDecember 2003, at which point it attempted to deliver the Beagle 2lander 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 homestunning and insightful imagery throughout its 12-year stayaround Mars.