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Gorgeous Mars valley was 'once a potentially habitable place'

See a fresh view of the ancient Mars valley that intrigues scientists and could be the landing site for a new Mars mission.

Mawrth Vallis is one of the biggest valleys on the Red Planet.

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

If you want to visit Mars and happen to know a Time Lord who can take you there, you might want to ask to go way, way back in time and stop in at Mawrth Vallis, a fascinating and mysterious part of the Red Planet's landscape. The European Space Agency released a mosaic image of the pockmarked valley on Monday.

The "Mawrth Vallis" name is a mashup from two languages. "Mawrth" is Welsh for "Mars" and "Vallis" is Latin for "valley." At over 370 miles (600 kilometers) in length, Mawrth Vallis dwarfs the Grand Canyon.

The lighter areas of the large valley point to clay minerals known as phyllosilicates that hint at an ancient source of water. "Phyllosilicates on Mars are evidence of the past presence of liquid water and point to the possibility that habitable environments could have existed on the planet up until 3.6 billion years ago," says the ESA.

The mosaic comes from nine separate images taken by the ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. Mars Express launched in 2003 with the aim of imaging the surface of Mars and studying its mineral composition.

Mawrth Vallis is so interesting that the ESA is considering it as a potential landing site for its ExoMars 2020 mission, a search for signs of life on the Red Planet.