Does Valles Marineris have layers? If it does, how are the layers
similar and different to the layers of the Grand Canyon?
Written by the students in
th Meggin Kirk’s 6 grade class
Mckemy Middle School
Beautiful, magestic and HUGE are three words to describe a place visited by over five million people a year—The Grand Canyon. There are canyons located all over the Southwestern United States but people all over the world come the Colorado Plateau in Arizona to check out the hugest hole on planet Earth but did you know there is an even deeper, wider and longer canyon in our solar system? It’s called Valles Marineris and it’s located on the fourth planet from the sun—Mars.
Valles Marineris and the Grand Canyon are the same in many ways but they are different as well. After working really hard to narrow our ideas down, we decided to ask the questions:
Does Valles Marineris have layers? If it does, how are the layers similar and different to the layers of the Grand Canyon?
If you’re wondering why we’re studying this topic it’s because 1) We live close to the Grand Canyon and we want to find out more about it. 2) Mars is very similar to the planet Earth and we think it will be interesting to compare the two. 3. Valles Marineris is the largest canyon on Mars and the Grand Canyon is the largest canyon on Earth. 4) People are always talking about the beauty and
incredibleness of the layers of the Grand Canyon and we would like to see if Valles Marineris has incredible layers as well. We have learned many new things and we would like to share what we’ve learned so far.
The Grand Canyon has many layers. It has over ten and each of these layers were deposited at a different time and are made of different substances! The Grand Canyon was formed long ago and has developed a variety of layers. Each of the layers were deposited over millions of years by water and many of the layers contain fossils. Some of the layers include Kaibab Limestone, Vishnu Schist and Topeats Sandstone. The layers were exposed when the Colorado River eroded through them and eventually the Grand Canyon was formed. The Grand Canyon is ENORMOUS! It’s 277 miles long, over a mile deep and about ten miles wide.
Even though the Grand Canyon is huge, compared to Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon doesn’t seem very “grand.” As a matter of fact, if Valles Marineris were place on planet Earth, it would stretch all the way from the coast of California to New York city. Now that’s
gigantic! (See picture below) Valles Marineris is 2,485 miles long, up to 370 miles wide and more than four miles deep. Compared to the Grand Canyon on Earth, Valles Marineris is almost ten times longer, about twenty times wider and about four times deeper. This monstrous canyon was not formed by a river though. There are actually several hypotheses regarding the formation of Valles Marineris but many believe it is a giant tear in the surface of Mars.
Now that we have some background information let’s
concentrate on what we really want to know—Does this huge
hole on Mars have layers?
Our hypothesis is that Valles Marineris does have layers. We also hypothesize that the layers were deposited many years ago and that they were deposited by water and wind. We think there will be over twenty layers and that there are over twenty different types of layers of varying thicknesses. If there are fossils present in the layers, we don’t think they will be very big or complex.
First we investigated and studied the layers of the Grand Canyon. We also studied various hypotheses regarding the formation of the Grand Canyon. We conducted some research on Mars, and because we’ve been studying the Grand Canyon, the largest canyon on Earth, we thought it
made sense to also study the largest canyon on Mars- Valles Marineris. An expert from ASU came to our class and showed us how to analyze images of mars and we presented our hypotheses to our peers.
Once we came up with our question we headed to ASU where professionals taught us all about the themis camera, accessing images and using photoshop to analyze those images. After seeing all that was involved to answer a question, we decided our original question (What are the similarities and difference between Valles Mariners and the Grand Canyon?) was too broad. We agreed to investigate the question. Does Valles Marineris have layers? If so how are the layers similar and different to the layers of the Grand Canyon?
We targeted several images of Valles Marineris and while at ASU, we discovered that Valles Marineris does indeed have layers, but we didn’t get a chance to seriously investigate these layers. We took the data we had collected so far and continued our research back at our school. Using the internet, we then found several sites that had information on the layers of Valles Marineris and the Grand Canyon. We also analyzed our image using a program called Photoshop to study its layers. Finally, we looked at additional images of Valles Marineris in the THEMIS Gallery so we could broaden our field of data. When looking for layers in our images, we focussed on areas of Valles Marineris that were likey to have layers (the sides, areas under mesas, etc.) We cropped these areas and zoomed is so we could take a closer look. Finally we labeled areas with letters and counted the the number and size of the layers.
Using the information from our image analysis for Valles Marineris and information gathered about the Grand Canyon, we were ready to begin our comparison of these to incredible features!
In addition to craters, spurs, gullies, and landslides, image A (below) showed layers. These pictures alternate black/white/black/white and we see many layers.
The picture of the Grand Canyon shows there are about ten layers. Our research says these layers were deposited by water over millions and millions of years ago. (See picture below)
Valles Marineris and the Grand Canyon both have layers; Grand Canyon’s layers were deposited by water and Valles Marineris has layers that many believe were deposited by volcanic ash. Grand Canyons layers are each made of a different rock type, you can tell by the colors in the picture, on the other hand, Valles Marinris only seems to have two different rock types. (You can tell by the two colors--black and white). A summary of our comparisons follows”
Comparing Layers of the Canyons
Feature Grand Canyon Valles Marineris
Layers Yes Yes
Number of layers 10-15 80 or more in some
locations (more or
less in others)
Fossils present Yes None recorded
Composition of 10-15 different It looks like two
layers types of rocks different
make up these materials compose
layers these layers
(based on the
light layers and
the black layers)
How layers were By water Lava and ash flows
deposited (according to
In order to answer the question, “Does Valles Marineris have layers? If it does, how are the layers similar and different to the layers of the Grand Canyon? We carefully researched various pictures and images. Originally we hypothesized that Valles Marineris does have layers but we were surprised to find how many similarities and differences there were between the layers of these two incredible canyons.
Valles Marineris is an enormous canyon. And our research into its layers is just the beginning. In the future we’d like to see the size of the study area increased to include more sections of Valles Marineris. In this increased area we would encourage others to study the age of the layers, get a more accurate count of the layers, and determine what kinds of material make the layers. It would also be interesting to recognize areas of Valles Marineris where layers tend to occur more often. Finally, to conclude the research we would encourage others to look at the broader similarities and differences between the Grand Canyon and Valles Marineris.
Banderson, Josh, Geologist, Arizona State Univeristy. Lecture. March, 2003
Knudsen, Kimm, Scientist, Arizona State Univeristy. Lecture. March, 2003
Mehall, Greg, T.E.S. News, December 19, 1997
Mars 2001 Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System; http://themis.asu.edu
Ribokas, Bob, Grand Canyon Explorer