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Mars flyover video shows a stunning network of valleys

Fly across Mars’s ‘labyrinth of night’ with Mars Express

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a gorgeous video visualizing part of Mars’ Noctis Labyrinthus, a vast system of deep valleys that stretches for around 740 miles (1,190 kilometers), or for context, roughly equal to the length of Italy.

The flyover, which uses imagery gathered from eight orbits made by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft and its High Resolution Stereo Camera (HSRC), shows a landscape dramatically different to other parts of Mars such as the much flatter Jezero Crater, which NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently exploring for signs of ancient microbial life.

“It presents a perspective view down and across this fascinating landscape, showing distinctive ‘graben’ — parts of the crust that have subsided in relation to their surroundings,” ESA explained in notes accompanying the video. The canyons and valleys that you can see are up to 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) wide and 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) deep.

These features are the result of intense volcanic activity in the nearby Tharsis region, which “caused large areas of martian crust to arch upwards and become stretched and tectonically stressed, leading to it thinning out, faulting and subsiding,” ESA said, adding that the highest plateaus depicted in the video show the original surface level before chunks fell away.

“In many places, gigantic landslides can be seen covering the valley slopes and floors, while other valley slopes show large dune fields created by sands blown both down and upslope by Martian winds,” the space agency said.

ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft has been orbiting the distant planet for the last 20 years, performing myriad tasks including imaging its surface, mapping its minerals, and analyzing its atmosphere. It’s also probing beneath its crust and examining how various phenomena interact in the Martian environment.

To build the visualization shown in the video, ESA combined imagery from the Mars Express with topographic data from a digital terrain model to create the impressive 3D landscape.

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