PARIS, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Images from a European spacecraft orbiting Mars have shown in greater detail than ever before a giant chasm ripped open by tectonic forces, scientists say.
The European Space Agency's Mars Express has photographed the Hebes Chasma, a 5-mile-deep scar on the martian landscape stretching for almost 200 miles, an ESA release reported Thursday.
The origin of Hebes Chasma is linked with the nearby volcanic Tharsis Region, home to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System, astronomers said.
As the Tharsis region swelled with magma during the planet's first billion years, the surrounding crust was stretched and eventually ripped apart and collapsed into gigantic troughs like Hebes Chasma, they said.
Data from both Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggest some parts of Hebes Chasma contain minerals that can form only in the presence of water, suggesting at some point in the Red Planet's history the canyon might have been filled with a lake.
Hebes Chasma and its similar neighboring network of canyons are remnants of the Red Planet's violent early history, astronomers said.