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India's 1st Mars Probe Captures Stunning 3D View of Huge Chasm

Ophir Chasma Canyon
This 3D portrayal of the Ophir Chasma canyon on Mars was taken by India's Mars Orbiter Mission. (Image credit: ISRO)

India's first mission to Mars has captured a stunning new 3D view of a vast chasm, revealing gullies shaped by erosive forces on the Red Planet.

The images, sent back by India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), show Ophir Chasma, a portion of the massive Valles Marineris system that stretches across much of the planet's equator. The images were taken July 19 and have a resolution of about 315 feet (96 meters).

The new images show the chasm from above and two different views of the sides, revealing hills, small impact craters and gullies shaped by landslides. [See more Mars photos by India's MOM probe]

Photos from the Mars Orbiter Mission provide a glimpse into the huge Ophir Chasma's three-dimensional texture. (Image credit: ISRO)

"The walls of the chasma contain many layers, and the floors contain large deposits of layered materials," Indian Space Research Organization officials said in a statement.

According to NASA, the chasm is the northernmost connected valley in Valles Marineris, which is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) long. The cliffs visible in the images were likely caused by faults that crumbled over time, due to landslides.

"The volume of the landslide debris is more than 1,000 times greater than that from the May 18, 1980, debris avalanche from Mount St. Helens," NASA officials wrote in 2011. NASA spacecraft Mariner 9 first discovered Valles Marineris in 1972, along with the massive Olympus Mons — the largest planetary volcano in the solar system.

Ophir Chasma, pictured here in a 3D image from the Mars Orbiter Mission, is part of the largest canyon system in the solar system, Indian Space Research Organisation officials say. (Image credit: ISRO)


MOM, which is India's first Martian spacecraft, arrived at the Red Planet in September 2014. One of its first images was a picture of Mars as a full disc. It also observed Comet Siding Spring when the comet flew past the planet a month later.

Besides these images of the chasm, MOM's Mars Color Camera has imaged locations on Mars such as Gale Crater, where NASA's Opportunity crater roams, and Tyrrhenus Mons, a large volcano.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.