The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a striking image of the Korolev crater on Mars, filled with white ice and appearing like a 'winter wonderland'.
The image was captured by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) aboard ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. It is actually a composite image created by combing five different ‘strips,' with each strip captured by HRSC over a different orbit.
Korolev crater is located at the Martian North Pole and is named after the famous Soviet rocket engineer Sergey Korolev, also known as the father of Soviet space technology. According to ESA, Korolev crater remains filled with an ice field, about 1.8 kilometres thick all year round.
The deepest part of the crater, which sits about two kilometres vertically beneath its rim and contains ice, act as a natural cold trap.
When air moves over the ice deposits, it cools down immediately and creates a layer of cold air sitting directly above the ice. This layer of cold air acts as a shield for ice and prevents it from heating up.
Due to this cold trap phenomenon, Korolev crater remains icy all year round.
ESA's Mars Express spacecraft will celebrate the 15-year anniversary of its orbit insertion and the beginning of the science mission next week. The spacecraft was launched in 2003 and took about six months to complete its journey to the Red Planet. It entered the orbit around Mars on 25th December 2003.
Apart from Mars Express, some other spacecraft and robotic probes launched by NASA and ESA are also currently exploring the Red Planet and beaming back high resolution images of the various features of the planet.
ESA's ExoMars Trace gas Orbiter started operating at Mars on 28th April 2018. The Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System aboard the Orbiter has also captured a beautiful image of Korolev crater's northern rim, exhibiting its fascinating shape as well as its white icy deposits.
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