A spacecraft has captured a 50-mile-wide icy crater on Mars, and the images were released by European Space Agency (ESA).
The images were posted after the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft captured them on Dec. 20, showing the Korolev crater.
“This image shows what appears to be a large patch of fresh, untrodden snow – a dream for any lover of the holiday season. However, it’s a little too distant for a last-minute winter getaway: this feature, known as Korolev crater, is found on Mars, and is shown here in beautiful detail as seen by Mars Express,” said the ESA in a news release.
The photo is a creation made up of five images shot by the unmanned Mars Express spacecraft.
“A beautiful #winter wonderland… on #Mars! This ice-filled crater was imaged by our Mars Express spacecraft. Korolev crater is 82 kilometers across and found in the northern lowlands of Mars,” said the ESA on Twitter.
The crater, meanwhile, is “an especially well-preserved example of a Martian crater and is filled not by snow but ice, with its center hosting a mound of water ice some 1.8 kilometres (1 mile) thick all year round.”
“The very deepest parts of Korolev crater, those containing ice, act as a natural cold trap: the air moving over the deposit of ice cools down and sinks, creating a layer of cold air that sits directly above the ice itself,” said the agency. “Behaving as a shield, this layer helps the ice remain stable and stops it from heating up and disappearing. Air is a poor conductor of heat, exacerbating this effect and keeping Korolev crater permanently icy.”
ESA’s Mars Express has spent 15 years on Mars’ surface as of December and will continue taking photos.
NASA stated that Mars, like Earth, has four seasons that last “twice as long.”
“The southern hemisphere has ‘harsher’ seasons than in the north. During Southern winter, Mars is farthest away from the Sun in its elliptical orbit around the Sun,” NASA said in a 2016 blog post. “That’s different from Earth, because our planet has a near circular orbit. Winter in the southern hemisphere is worse, because Mars is the farthest away from the Sun and moves more slowly in its orbit. Going from a winter to warmer spring can be quite dramatic.”
Much of Mars is made up of sand, creating mass quantities of red dust and dust storms.
It added: “Spring for the rovers on Mars is the start of the dust season. Dust storms can brew in one area of the planet, and grow into planet-wide storms. Global dust storms can even blanket the whole planet, covering it from sight. Data from orbiters can tell us a lot about [the] scope and scale of storms and how [they] affect rovers on the ground.”
On Sept. 25, NASA’s Opportunity rover was seen in a photo (seen above in the white square) taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing a significant dust storm.
From The Epoch Times