Over the years, scientists have proposed a number of theories about the formation of Valles Marineris. Erosion during a water-rich past and the withdrawal of subsurface magma were both early possibilities. Today, most scientists think that the formation of the Tharsis region may have helped the canyon to form. The Tharsis region contains several large volcanoes that dwarf those found on Earth, including Olympus Mons.
As molten rock pushed through the volcanic region to form the monstrous volcanoes 3. The strain cracked the crust, causing large faults and fractures across the planet's surface. Such fractures, growing over time, birthed the enormous canyon system. The spreading cracks caused the ground to sink and opened an escape for subsurface water. The upward rushing liquid broke down the edges of the fractures, enlarging them and washing away more of the ground while flowing past. Signs of flooding are especially apparent at the eastern end, in the mesas and hills known as chaotic terrain.
The connected chasma or valleys of Valles Marineris may have formed from a combination of erosional collapse and structural activity. Layers of material in the eastern canyons might consist of carbonates deposited in ancient lakes. Huge ancient river channels began from Valles Marineris and from adjacent canyons and ran north.
Many of the channels flowed north into Chryse Basin, which contains the site of the Viking 1 Lander and the future site of the Mars Pathfinder Lander. June 08, A color image of Valles Marineris, the great canyon of Mars; north toward top.
This panorama, taken on Feb. Perseverance Navcams Degree Panorama. New evidence that the Valles Marineris interior deposits formed in standing bodies of water. Abstract This article is a stub. You can help Marspedia by expanding it. Categories : Topography Stubs. This page was last edited on 7 January , at Theater-headed means that, from above, the head of the valley is a well-defined U-shape.
The valley is propagated by the continued erosion and the collapse of the wall. Between the two canyons, the surface is composed of younger fractured material - lava flows and faults from crustal extension of the Tharsis Bulge.
The next portion of Valles Marineris to the east are three chasmata, that from south to north are Melas , Candor and Ophir chasmata. Melas is east of Ius, Candor is east of Tithonium and Ophir appears as an oval that runs into Candor.
All three chasmata are connected. It also contains rough floor material from the erosion of the canyon walls. Also, in these central chasmata there is a portion of the floor that is higher than the rest of the floor, most likely left by the continued dropping of the other floor material.
Around the edges of Melas is also a lot of slide material as seen in Ius and Tithonium chasmata. The material of the floor of the canyon system between Candor and Melas chasmata is grooved. There are also portions of older and younger massive floor material of volcaniclastic origin - only separated in age by crater distribution. Also there is etched massive floor material that is like the younger and older massive material except that it has wind erosion features on it.
There are also a few spires of undivided material composed of the same material as the canyon walls. Further to the east, the canyon system runs into Coprates Chasma , which is very similar to Ius and Tithonium chasmata. Coprates differs from Ius in the eastern end which contains alluvial deposits and eolian material  and like Ius, has layered deposits, although the deposits in the Coprates Chasma are much more well defined. These deposits pre-date the Valles Marineris system, suggesting erosion and sedimentary processes later cut by the Valles Marineris system.
Newer data from Mars Global Surveyor suggest that the origin of this layering is either just a succession of landslides , one over another, volcanic in origin, or it may be the bottom of a basin of either liquid or solid water ice suggesting that the peripheral canyons of the Valles Marineris system could have been at one time isolated lakes formed from erosional collapse.
Another possible source of the layered deposits could be wind-blown, but the diversity of the layers suggests that this material is not dominant. Note that only the upper layers are thin, while the bottom layers are very big, suggesting that the lower layers were composed of mass wasted rock and the upper layers come from another source. This complex terrain could also be just eroded sediment from an ancient Martian lake-bed and appear complex because all that we have is an aerial view like a geologic map and not enough elevation data to see if the beds are horizontal.
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