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Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This image of the Martian surface shows large valleys called Northwestern sloped valleys (NSV's) that were created by cataclysmic flooding in the distant past.
Courtesy of NASA

The Largest Valley System in the Solar System
News story originally written on August 8, 2001

Scientists studying the features of Mars have discovered the largest known valley system in the solar system. These valleys and gorges lie beneath the surface of the planet, under ash, lava, and dust, and were spotted by the Mars Global Surveyor which can look beneath the surface of Mars using lasers. Data from the Viking spacecraft which circled Mars in the 1970's was also used during this study.

These giant channels were apparently formed by large amounts of water flowing through them, as similar structures are formed on Earth, except that to form valleys the size of these the water flow through them would have been 50,000 times that of the Amazon River!

The scientists who completed the study say that Mars probably experienced periods of dramatic heating caused by volcanic activity, and this sharp increase in temperature would have caused floods of an incredible scale. They say that the amount of water flowing through the channels they have discovered would have been enough to fill an ocean three times the size of the Mediterranean Sea in less than two months!

The evidence from this study supports the long-held idea that Mars has vast amounts of frozen water, and that from time to time this water is released by volcanic activity. It also suggests that sometime in the future, Mars may again have oceans, lakes and rivers on its surface.

Last modified August 10, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA