What created this great cliff on Mars? Did giant waterfalls once plummet through its grooves? With a four-kilometer drop, this high cliff surrounding Echus Chasma, near an impressive impact crater, was carved by either water or lava. A leading hypothesis is that Echus Chasma, at 100-kilometers long and 10-kilometers wide, was once one of the largest water sources on Mars. If true, water once held in Echus Chasma likely ran over the Martian surface to carve the impressive Kasei Valles, which extends over 3,000 kilometers to the north. Even if initially carved by water, lava appears to have later flowed in the valley, leaving an extraordinarily smooth floor. Echus Chasma lies north of tremendous Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the Solar System. The above image was taken by the robotic Mars Express spacecraft currently orbiting Mars.
Image credit: G. Neukum (FU Berlin) et al., Mars Express, DLR, ESA
This image of Martian terrain shows the intersection of several fractures on the floor of Echus Chasma. One “sector” shows evidence of filling by a more recent viscous lava flow. Researchers consider Echus Chasma as the water source region that formed Kasei Valles, a large valley that extends thousands of kilometers to the north. The HiRISE spacecraft, which obtained the image, may assist in determining the relative roles of lava and water in the region.