New ESA photo shows colossal scar on Martian surface in unprecedented detail

The European Space Agency (ESA) recently released a set of high-resolution images captured by its Mars Express orbiter. These images reveal the incredible details of a massive scar on the Red Planet’s surface—Aganippe Fossa. It’s a 600 km (373 miles) long, snaking depression, longer than the impressive Grand Canyon.

Aganippe Fossa is a graben, a feature formed when tectonic forces stretch and crack a planet’s crust. The new images are groundbreaking because they provide the most detailed view yet of this colossal Martian landmark yet. The new images of Aganippe Fossa were captured by the orbiter’s high-resolution stereo camera.

But this isn’t just any scar; it’s located at the base of Arsia Mons, one of the largest volcanoes on Mars. ESA scientists believe the Tharsis volcanoes’ colossal weight, including Arsia Mons, likely caused the Martian crust to stretch and break, forming the graben.

Mars scarMars scar
Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

Following the tradition of naming Martian features after classical mythology, Aganippe Fossa is named after a nymph associated with a spring in Greek mythology. “Fossa” comes from Latin and refers to a long depression on a celestial body.

But the newly released close-up of Aganippe Fossa reveals more than just the massive scar. The images also reveal clustered, uneven hills and smooth, debris-covered slopes – landscapes referred to as hummocky and lobate terrains, respectively.

The ESA team also described the windblown dust and sand dynamics that paint the Martian landscape with “zebra-like” stripes. These patterns arise from darker material settling on lighter areas. The images even show evidence of past volcanic activity through ancient lava flows.

Mars scarMars scar
Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

Launched in 2003, ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has been tirelessly working to unravel the mysteries of Mars. Despite losing its lander Beagle 2, the orbiter continues to map the planet’s surface, study its atmosphere, and investigate its geology.

The longevity and productivity of the Mars Express mission have significantly enhanced our understanding of our planetary neighbor. These incredible new images are a testament to the ongoing exploration of Mars and the captivating stories etched on its surface.


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