We might not be about to have a White Christmas down here on Earth but there is certainly going to be one on Mars by the looks of it.
A high-resolution camera called the Mars Express, operated by the European Space Agency, has discovered a gigantic crater on the red planet that is 50km wide and filled with ice.
The crater in question is called the Korolev crater and it sits in Mars’ northern lowlands. It is positioned just south of Mars’ north pole and has a whole heap of water ice sitting inside it.
The huge glacier is thought to be around 1.8km thick and sits there inside the crater all year round. It comprises of around 528 cubic miles of non-polar ice. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering.
It is so icy all year round because of a phenomenon called a “cold trap” which happens because the floor of the vast crater is more than two kilometres down from the rim. That means that the very lowest reaches of the hole trap the air and cool it down as it rises, that cold air then sits on top of the ice, keeping it nice and chilly.
Because air is not very good at conducting heat, that enables the glacier to sit there permanently.
The pictures, captured by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera, are actually a composite image consisting of five different ‘strips’ gathered on five different orbits around the planet. They are then gathered together to make the stunning images that we can see
The crater is named after the rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev. He was instrumental in sending the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit, as well as working on the missions that put the first ever cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, into space.
In case you’re wondering (or are a flat-earther) – yes, the photos have been adjusted slightly from the original ones taken.
ESA Lead Researcher Nicholas Thomas admitted that the colours of the photographs have been changed to best suit what would be visible to the human eye.
Thomas also said that the cameras were up there to check out where gases such as methane could be found. That could indicate evidence of biological or geological activity on the fourth planet from the sun.
Oh, and they’re looking for places that could work as future landing sites if we do decide to send someone or something up there in the future.
Interesting stuff, wouldn’t you agree?
Featured Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin