Twists and turns in the Moon’s Grand Canyon

Seen here is a lava-carved channel within another lava-carved channel on the Moon!

Twists and turns in the Moon’s largest valley, Vallis Schröteri. Image is about 10 km wide. Credit: NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

A volcanically active Moon in the past carved with hot lava what is considered the Moon’s Grand Canyon – Vallis Schröteri. It runs for 160 km, is up to 11 km wide and almost 0.5 km deep. It is remarkable that in this lava-carved valley runs another! It is a sign that multiple volcanic eruption events occurred in the past in the same region.

Today’s featured image is a section of the entire valley, as highlighted in the image below.

Location of the featured picture showing a valley within a valley. Credit: NASA LRO

We can use the draw tool from the wonderful LROC Quickmap to see a depth profile of the lava-carved channels.

Depth profile of a lava-carved valley within a lava-carved valley.

You can see clear dips in depth as the secondary channel cuts across. Beautiful! Explore the profile yourself here.

Thanks to Adithya Kothandhapani for suggesting use of LROC Quickmap's Draw tool for better explanation of features on Moon Monday.

There’s also a 3D view of the area from Moon Monday’s previous post! Put on your 3D glasses!

This 3D image of a section of Vallis Schröteri allows you to get a feel of the valleyception! Credit: NASA LRO

Like the previously covered Rimae Prinz and Rimae Posidonious, the lava that carved these channels must be highly fluid (having low viscosity) to cause such striking twists and turns. How are they caused?

Physically examining and sampling more such sinuous lava channels via future lunar missions is exciting because they expose layers of past lava flows, giving us an entry point into the Moon’s volcanic history.

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