“Exploring Noctis Labyrinthus: Mars Express Unveils the Mysteries of the Martian Landscape [Video]”

by Henrik Andersen
1 comment
Martian Landscape Exploration

Noctis Labyrinthus, an extensive valley system on Mars, is nestled between the awe-inspiring Valles Marineris, often referred to as the Martian ‘Grand Canyon,’ and the towering volcanoes of the Tharsis region. A captivating video, meticulously crafted by Mars Express’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), takes us on a mesmerizing journey over this Martian terrain, unveiling the geological wonders shaped by the formidable Tharsis volcanism. This natural phenomenon has had a profound impact on the Martian crust, resulting in its stretching and subsidence.

Stretching across an astonishing distance of approximately 740 miles (1,190 kilometers), which equates to roughly the length of Italy here on Earth, Noctis Labyrinthus is a complex network of deep valleys and steep canyons. The video offers a breathtaking perspective as it soars over the eastern expanse of Noctis Labyrinthus. It grants viewers a closer look at the distinctive ‘graben’ formations, sections of the crust that have settled lower in comparison to their surroundings. These features owe their existence to the intense volcanic activity in the nearby Tharsis region. This volcanic activity caused significant portions of the Martian crust to arch upwards, leading to stretching, tectonic stress, and eventual thinning, faulting, and subsidence.

The video commences with a panoramic view of Mars, featuring its iconic polar caps and mottled tan surface. It then zooms in on the westernmost section of the colossal Valles Marineris canyon system, highlighted within a white box, before seamlessly transitioning to Mars Express’s captivating visualization of Noctis Labyrinthus. As the camera gracefully glides over this rugged landscape, viewers are treated to a landscape defined by intersecting valleys and canyons. Notably, the highest plateaus visible here represent the original surface level, with chunks of the surface having eroded away over time. These intersecting canyons and valleys boast impressive dimensions, with widths of up to 30 kilometers and depths of six kilometers. Throughout the terrain, one can observe massive landslides covering both valley slopes and floors, while other slopes showcase expansive dune fields sculpted by the relentless Martian winds.

This isn’t the first time that ESA has showcased Mars Express images of Noctis Labyrinthus, having previously done so in 2006 and 2015. Mars Express has been a stalwart presence in orbit around the Red Planet since 2003, diligently capturing images of Mars’s surface, mapping its mineral composition, studying its delicate atmosphere, delving beneath its crust, and investigating the intricate interplay of various phenomena within the Martian environment.

For those interested in the technical aspects, the video was meticulously crafted by assembling an image mosaic captured over eight orbits (0442, 1085, 1944, 1977, 1988, 10497, 14632, and 16684) by ESA’s Mars Express and its HRSC. This mosaic was then integrated with topographic data from a digital terrain model to generate a three-dimensional representation of the landscape. The video consists of 50 individual frames for every second, following a predefined camera path. The opening credits, featuring a rotating Mars globe in the first 24 seconds, were crafted using a recently created 20-year Mars global color mosaic, with a three-fold vertical exaggeration. Subsequently, the flight animation maintains a 1.5-fold exaggeration. To enhance the visual experience, a haze was added to obscure the boundaries of the terrain model, gradually appearing between 150 and 200 kilometers from the viewer’s perspective. The video is centered at the Martian coordinates of 7°S, 265°E.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Martian Landscape Exploration

What is Noctis Labyrinthus on Mars?

Noctis Labyrinthus is a vast valley system on Mars, situated between Valles Marineris and the Tharsis region’s volcanoes.

What geological features are highlighted in the Mars Express video?

The video showcases distinctive ‘graben’ formations, which are sections of the Martian crust that have subsided due to Tharsis volcanism.

What is the significance of Tharsis volcanism in this context?

Tharsis volcanism is responsible for the creation of ‘graben’ formations by causing the Martian crust to stretch, thin out, fault, and subside.

How extensive is the Noctis Labyrinthus valley system?

Noctis Labyrinthus spans approximately 740 miles (1,190 kilometers), roughly equivalent to the length of Italy on Earth.

What other notable features are seen in the video?

Viewers can observe intersecting canyons and valleys up to 30 kilometers wide and six kilometers deep, as well as landslides and dune fields shaped by Martian winds.

How was the Mars Express video created?

The video was crafted by assembling an image mosaic from multiple orbits and integrating it with topographic data, resulting in a three-dimensional representation. Each second of the video comprises 50 individual frames.

What is the purpose of the haze added to the video?

Haze was added to obscure the boundaries of the terrain model, enhancing the visual experience for viewers.

What is the geographical reference point for the video?

The video is centered at the Martian coordinates of 7°S, 265°E.

How long has Mars Express been in orbit around Mars?

Mars Express has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, conducting a wide range of scientific investigations of Mars and its environment.

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1 comment

ScienceNerd42 October 15, 2023 - 12:04 am

Noctis Labyrinthus sounds like a sci-fi movie title, but it’s real! Mars is amazing, can’t believe it’s been explored for so long.

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