Flying over the frigid north of Mars, the Mars Express satellite captured images of the 50-mile-wide Korolev crater filled with ice.
The image Korolev sent back is extremely impressive and especially fascinating, not only because it is a fairly intact impact crater but because it is filled with white ice, Sciencealert reported on December 20.
Launched 15 years ago by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Mars Express is designed to study glaciers and ice in the polar regions of Mars.
The ice of the Korolev crater is resistant to melting before summer warming because the giant ice plain creates a “cold trap,” ESA explains. As the air moves over the crater, it cools and sinks over the ice, creating a cool “shield” over the ice.
So even when the seasons change, Korolev is still flooded with ice. Most Martian craters, even in colder regions, are not year-round.
As the Mars Express flies over the desert regions of Mars, it takes pictures of different swaths of land, then transmits the images back to Earth. ESA scientists then combined the images to create a coherent picture of the different Martian landforms, dry lakes, and frozen bodies of water.
The Korolev image above is a composite of five different images, each taken in a separate orbit on Mars.
Korolev is named after a “giant” in the history of space: rocket scientist Sergei Korolev.
Korolev headed the Soviet space program and famously beat the Americans in the space race. The Soviet space project, led by Korolev, sent the first satellite into space in 1957 3 months before the US (January 1958, the first US satellite named Explorer 1 had just entered orbit. ).
“He was an important figure in the history of the universe – even though he died too soon,” says space historian Robert Pearlman.
The ESA says Mars Express is doing very well and will continue to scan the Martian terrain and transmit truly vibrant and realistic images of Earth.