Pictures that show Mars’s icy crater near the North Pole make it seem like a faraway winter wonderland.
It may look like it’s a bowl of fresh snow released by European Space Agency (ESA) on Dec. 20th, but it’s actually an ice deposit chilling the air that is moving above it, as stated by the agency.
The crater is called “Korolev Crater” and the ice can be found in the deepest parts of its foundation and while the air is moving over the ice, it cools it down and sinks it, creating cold air right above the chilly deposit.
ESA officially named this phenomenon a “cold trap” because it looks like the air is keeping the crater from becoming permanently icy.
Korolev Crater is 82 km across, which is about 51 miles, found just south of terrain that wraps around Olympia Undae, Mars’ northern polar cap. The crater floor is even deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon – it can reach depths of even 1.2 miles below its rim.
The High Resolution Stereo Camera on the space agency’s Mars Express satellite managed to take shots of the crater’s five different ‘’strips’’ and each of those shots came from a different orbit of the spacecraft. They were combined and made into a single image.
Mars Express is actually linked with Christmas as well. After about 6 months travelling from Earth, the mission first fired its engine to enter Martian orbit on Dec. 25, 2003. Mars Express is the first spacecraft of the agency to explore another planet, however its high-resolution stereoscopic camera and mineralogical mapping spectrometer failed shortly after being launched on Nov.16 of 1996.