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Edge of Huygens Crater.

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Mars Express.
Mars Express image of impact crater Huygens.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express took this image of the rim of impact crater Huygens, which is 450 km (280 miles) across. By counting craters in the area, researchers have determined that Huygens was blasted out approximately 4 billion years ago, early on in Mars' history when the planet was being heavily bombarded like the rest of the planets in the Solar System. The rim seems to show a tributary system that could have been water runoff in the ancient Martian past.

This image, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, shows the eastern rim of the Martian impact crater Huygens.

The image was taken during orbit 532 in June 2004 with a ground resolution of approximately 70 metres per pixel. The displayed region is centred around longitude 61º East and latitude 14º South.

Huygens is an impact structure, about 450 kilometres wide, located in the heavily cratered southern highlands of Mars. Crater counts of the rim unit of the impact basin indicate that it is almost 4000 million years old.

This implies that this basin was formed in the early history of the planet and indicates a period of heavy bombardment in roughly the first 500 million years of the planet’s lifetime.

The basin shows an inner ring that has been subsequently filled by sediments transported into the crater.

Thia image showa part of the eastern rim of the crater. The rim is heavily eroded and shows a 'dendritic’ pattern. This observation suggests surface water run-off.

Dendritic systems are the most common form of drainage system found on Earth. They consist of a main 'river’ valley with tributaries with their own tributaries. From above, they look like a tree or a river delta in reverse.

The valley system is blanketed by dark material, which was either transported by a fluid running through the channels or by wind-driven ('aeolian’) processes. Part of the area has been covered by slightly redder material, which implies a different chemical composition.

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