Nasa releases image of 'Niagara Falls of lava' on Mars
The photos were sent back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which was launched in 2005 and has been sending images back of the planet's surface since soon after that.
Nasa notes that a lot of time is spent wondering about and searching for proof of liquid water on Mars, which would be a signal of life. But the new pictures show that the planet itself was once far more alive than it is today – made up of flowing molten lava that spread across its surface.
The pictures show the result of that flow, depicting the northern rim of a crater that is 30-kilometres in diameter. From the image it can be seen that lava flowed into and surrounded the rim of that crater.
There wasn't enough of it to fill up the crater's floor, the image shows. That can be seen by comparing the dark parts of the image – the old lava – with the chalkier, older, light bit.
Nasa said that closer images show that the lava was able to breach the crater's wall through a small hole, allowing the lava to flow through and forming the stunning images that were sent back to Earth recently.