This isn’t quite like Luke’s trench run in the Battle of Yavin, but it’s waaay more awesome in that this is real.
Go grab your red–green or red–blue 3-D glasses (you always have a pair right by your desk, right?) and enjoy this great flyover video from ESA showcasing some very interesting landforms on Mars that planetary geologists refer to as ‘chaotic terrain.’ There’s nothing quite like this on Earth, and scattered throughout a large area to both the west and east of Valles Marineris are hundreds of isolated mountains up to 2,000 meters high. “Seen from orbit, they form a bizarre, chaotic pattern,” say scientists from the Mars Express orbiter.
What created this weird landscape? Scientists think that during Mars’ early history, water in the form of ice was stored in cavities beneath the surface of the highlands; this was then heated and thawed out. It was then placed under so much pressure that it escaped to the surface with great force through fissures and fault zones. As it flowed out, the water eroded the terrain and gradually left behind the striking landscape visible today. Another factor supporting this theory is that many of the chaotic terrains on Mars are located at the head of large outflow channels, through which enormous quantities of water flowed out of the highlands towards the northern lowlands.
The data used to generate the images and the simulated flyover were acquired with the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter.