Nasa's Orbiter captures stunning image of ancient 'Niagara Falls' of lava on Mars

Nasa has released a gorgeous image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dubbing it 'The Niagara Falls of Mars'NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Nasa has released stunning images this week from its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showing a part of the red planet where ancient lava once flowed similar to liquid water, dubbing it "The Niagara Falls of Mars."

The 3D image from MRO's Context Camera shows the north rim of a crater that is nearly 19 miles (30km) in diameter located in the western part of the Tharsis volcanic province.

"The image shows that a lava flow coming from the north-northeast surrounded the crater rim, and rose to such levels that it breached the crater rim at four locations to produce spectacular multi-level lava falls," Nasa explained in a statement. "These lava 'falls' cascaded down the wall and terraces of the crater to produce a quasi-circular flow deposit."

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However, the space agency noted that the lava flow was not enough to fill up or cover the crater's floor.

"This is evidenced by the darker-toned lavas that overlie the older, and possibly dustier, lighter-toned deposits on the crater floor," Nasa said.

"The lava flows and falls are distinct as they are rougher than the original features that are smooth and knobby."

A closer image of the three falls in the north-central region of the crater wall show that the lava was able to breach the crater's wall through a small hole, allowing the "rough-textured lava" to flow through, fan out and drape down the wall's steeper slopes.

Since the MRO was launched in 2005, the $450m (£345.9m) spacecraft has sent back multiple stunning images of Mars back to Earth over the years, revealing exquisite, unprecedented details of the Martian surface, its atmosphere and composition. It recently caught a view of Nasa's Curiosity rover inside a crater where it has been exploring since 2012.

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