An Early Holiday Postcard from Mars Is Here
Those who cherish a snowy holiday will surely appreciate the view. But the spot is not open for vacation, or we could go as far as to say, the place is not yet hospitable for life without some serious life support systems.
Mars Express Orbiter is the result of an ESA's space exploration mission effort. The other part of the project, Beagle 2, which was intended to do surface exploration in exobiology and geochemistry, failed to deploy.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Mars Express Orbiter's entrance into the orbit. The Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) took some beautiful photographs of the Korolev crater. The ESA website reports "... this view of Korolev crater comprises five different ‘strips’ that have been combined to form a single image, with each strip gathered over a different orbit. The crater is also shown in perspective, context, and topographic views, all of which offer a more complete view of the terrain in and around the crater."
Korolov spans 50 miles (82 kilometers) around the northern hemisphere of the red planet, the contents we in the picture are all ice, no snow is present. The thickness of the ice is about 1.1 miles (1.8 km) all year round.
The existence of such geographical feature owes its existence to a phenomenon called a cold trap, the crater's 1.2 miles (2 km) deep from its rim. The air moving over the ice cools down and sinks below, forming a blanket directly over the ice.
Air does not like to conduct heat much, thus it keeps the ice stable and permanent.
This region of the planet had garnered much interest in establishing whether if life had ever existed on Mars or not in ESA's ExoMars program.