Curiosity has put Mars back in the public eye in a big way in recent months, but that scrappy rover isn’t the only one sending home amazing pictures of the Red Planet. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter has been keeping an eye on the planet from a decidedly higher viewpoint. Using the MEO’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC — space agencies love them some acronyms), the orbiter has sent back the shot below, a stunning bird’s eye view of Marineris Canyon, the largest and deepest canyon in the solar system.
“How deep?” you ask. If you dropped a quarter off the rim, it would fall 6.8 miles before it hit the canyon floor. In other words, the Grand Canyon can suck it. Here’s the skinny on the picture from National Geographic:
Stretching across the equatorial Martian highlands for some 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers), Valles Marineris yawns 124 miles (200 kilometers) wide and up to 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) deep. Earth’s 1.25-mile-deep (2-kilometer-deep) Grand Canyon could easily fit into one of Valles Marineris’s smaller side valleys.
Another measure of the Martian canyon’s magnitude: It took 20 images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) aboard ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft to represent Valles Marineris in glorious false color.
So yeah, it’s big. In related news, I just figured out where I want to build my vacation home.