Travel far enough north on Mars, and you’ll find a landmark that could be the envy of skaters everywhere: a crater full of ice, 82 kilometres long, that remains frozen all year round.
The Korolev crater was captured by a High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) attached to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission, 15 years after it launched in 2003.
Coverage of Mars on Globalnews.ca:
The crater is located on the planet’s northern lowlands, which are found south of a patch of terrain packed with dunes and that surround Olympic Undae, Mars’ northern polar cap, according to the ESA.
At the crater’s centre is a pile of ice that’s as much as 1.8 kilometres thick, the ESA added.
And it exists because of what’s known as a “cold trap.”
A “cold trap” is a phenomenon in which air moves over the ice, cools and then sinks down, eventually forming a layer that sits right over the frozen water that’s already there.
That layer of cold air helps to maintain the ice’s stability and keeps it from warming and evaporating.
Korolev crater is named for Sergei Korolev, a Soviet scientist who worked on missions such as Sputnik, which sent the first artificial satellites into orbit around Earth, and the Vostok program, under which a spacecraft carried Yuri Gagarin into space, making him the first human in space.
But these aren’t the first images to capture the Korolev crater.
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The ESA previously snapped imagery of the crater in April, using a Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) as part of its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
The Korolev crater holds 2,209 cubic kilometres of ice, which is as much as can be found in Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, The Guardian noted.