Mars' Valles Marineris Canyon Makes The Grand Canyon Look Like A Crack On The Sidewalk

When one thinks of the largest canyons in existence, the Grand Canyon often comes to mind, and for a good reason. It's large, fairly famous, and sometimes peculiar. But, one thing that might blow people's minds is that there's an even larger canyon in existence, but it's not on planet earth: it's on Mars. 

The Valles Marineris is one of the big bad boys of Martian geology. As stated by NASA, the Valles Marineris is one of the largest canyon systems on Mars. It is a whopping 2500 miles long and 4 miles deep, making it one impressive hole in the ground. By comparison, the Grand Canyon sits at a wimpy 500 miles long and 1 mile deep. The Valles Marineris laughs at Arizona's puny canyon. 

As Britannica says, the Valles Marineris is one major network of many different canyons all connected together. But, how did these canyons form in the first place? And how did scientists discover them? 

Tectonic activity and volcanos may have formed the canyon

The Valles Marineris is impressive on its own right, given its considerable scale and age. Scientists have long thought about how the Red Planet got its canyons. What the research says, so far, is that Valles Marineris came to be through a series of volcanic shifts and tectonic activity.

As THEMIS notes, all of this happened 3.5 billion years ago, and left Mars' surface forever changed. Erupting fault lines and incredibly violent giant volcanos helped create this mass rift in the Martian landscape. Molten rock rose from the center of the planet and elevated the area known as Tharsis. The geological tensions caused the land to crack into fractures, and the ground itself sank into the depths. 

As NASA explains, a global cooling on Mars after this activity, helped widen and form huge erosional forces. There also might have been formations caused by water, researchers think, though more evidence is still needed. 

The Valles Marineris might be the king of all canyons

As said before, the sheer size of the Valles Marineris puts many other canyons to shame. However, what might not be known is that it is actually the largest canyon known in the entire solar system. As Live Science says, it is 10 times larger than the Grand Canyon, which was formed by water, unlike the Valles Marineris.

This is because Mars might have been too dry and hot for rivers, which makes that particular origin story a bit unlikely, as USA Today notes. However, nothing is yet conclusive, as scientists still aren't completely sure how the Valles Marineris came to be, but research on the mammoth canyon continues. 

It may be a long time before science fully figures out all of the Valles Marineris' secrets. However, with the study of high-resolution photography and ongoing expeditions to the Red Planet, who knows what will be discovered in the future.