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03.13.2006

Mars Canyon with Los Angeles for Scale (13 Mar 2006)

A "Grand Canyon of Mars" slices across the Red Planet near its equator. This canyon -- Valles Marineris, or the Mariner Valley -- is 10 times longer and deeper than Arizona's Grand Canyon, and 20 times wider. As the picture shows, you could drop the whole Los Angeles basin into a small part of Valles Marineris and leave plenty of room to spare. In length, the canyon extends far enough that it could reach across the United States from East Coast to West Coast, while its rim stands more than 25,000 feet high, nearly as tall as Earth's Mount Everest.

This scene comes from "Flight Through Mariner Valley," an exciting video produced for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The video takes viewers on a simulated flight into Valles Marineris, where they explore its scenic wonders as their imaginary scout ship dives low over landslides and races through winding canyons.

The video features high-resolution images from Arizona State University's Thermal Emission Imaging System multi-band camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey. The images, which show details as small as 300 meters (1,000 feet) across, were taken at infrared wavelengths during the Martian daytime. Scientists joined hundreds of individual frames from the camera into a giant mosaic, then colored the mosaic to approximate how Mars would appear to the human eye.

To give the mosaic depth and height, moviemakers fitted it to a computerized topographic model for Valles Marineris. This was developed using hundreds of thousands of altitude measurements by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, an instrument on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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