Amazing Photos Reveal Water Ice Found on Mars in a “Cold Trap” Crater

European Space Agency Photo of Ice on Mars

Photo: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

In a continuing quest to learn more about Mars, the European Space Agency (ESA) has recently released a pair of photos that provide us with more insight into the Red Planet. The two images showcase the massive Korolev crater that measures 51 miles (83 kilometers) across and has a 1.1 mile (1.8 kilometers) thick mound of water ice that stays frozen all year round. ESA estimates that the hole contains 528 cubic miles (2,200 cubic kilometers) of water ice. For context, this is as much as Great Bear Lake in northern Canada, which is one of the largest lakes in the world.

Although these images appear seamless, they are the result of composite photographs captured by the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). In April 2018, the HRSC began its series of orbits around the planet; during each trip, it snapped a strip of imagery. The individual pieces were later combined to create two views: one at an angle and another from straight above.

The incredible images show a solid white pool that’s set below a deep lip. So, how does it stay solid? “This ever-icy presence is due to an interesting phenomenon known as a ‘cold trap’, which occurs as the name suggests,” ESA writes in a press release. “The crater’s floor is deep, lying some two kilometers (1.25 miles) vertically beneath its rim. The very deepest parts of Korolev crater, those containing ice, act as a natural cold trap: the air moving over the deposit of ice cools down and sinks, creating a layer of cold air that sits directly above the ice itself.” This layer then “behaves like a shield” that allows the ice to remain stable—it doesn’t heat up nor does it disappear.

The Mars Express started its mission on June 2, 2003. It took about six months to reach the planet, where it entered its orbit on December 25, 2003. The new images of Korolev crater are a fitting milestone for the long and successful journey.

The European Space Agency recently shared two new pictures of ice on Mars, which showcase the massive Korolev crater.

European Space Agency Photo of Ice on Mars

Photo: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The crater is as big as some of the largest lakes on Earth.

European Space Agency: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [PetaPixel]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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