Cutting through the mountains – Vallis Alpes

Seen here is the incredible valley called Vallis Alpes, that bisects the lunar mountain range of Alpes.

vallis_alpes_4115_h3
The 166 km long Vallis Alpes, cutting through the Montes Alpes range. Credit: NASA Lunar Orbiter 4.

The mountain range Montes Alpes separates the two large lava covered lunar basins of Mare Imbrium and Mare Frigoris. And the 166 km long valley of Vallis Alpes cuts right through it. After the formation of the valley, its floor was flooded with lava from both Mare Imbrium and Mare Frigoris. Notice how a central lava-carved sinuous rille bisects the valley itself.

Much like the previously covered Rima Ariadaeus, Vallis Alpes is thought to have been formed when a section of the Moon’s crust sank down between two adjacent volumes of rock. The following illustration makes it clear.

Sections of the crust sunk (called graben) between two adjacent volumes of rock.
Sections of the crust sunk (called graben) between two adjacent volumes of rock. Image derived from Wikipedia. Credit: Jatan Mehta

Was the valley formed as a result of the impact that excavated the Imbrium basin or is the feature younger? Studying and sampling material from the valley sides and floor will tell us about its origin and lunar interior.

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