Mars is known for its polar ice caps – composed of ice and ice of carbon dioxide – which stand out against the surrounding terrain of the rust. But plenty of ice can be found outside of the main ice caps on Mars, including the underground. One picture particularly shows a marvelous example of such an iceberg on Mars – "ice" in a crater near the north pole – very suitable for this time of year in the northern hemisphere of Earth and Mars. That's true … now it's winter in the northern hemisphere on Mars. The Martian northern winter solstice came on October 16, 2018 (seasonal calendar on Mars here).
The European Space Agency (ESA) has bought the image at the top, as well as several other images on this site, via its Mars Express orbiter. The one above shows what at first glance looks like a scenic view of the untouched surface of snow from Mars, but the brilliantly white feature is actually the ice of the water, filling the queen's crater on Mars. The rounded ice embankment is captured in exceptional detail; notice the smaller patches of ice filling the cracks at the edge of the crater. The ESA released the image on December 20, 2018.
The Korolev Crater is about 82 km away and is located in the northern part of the lowlands of Mars, south of Olympia Neda – a space on a dina-filled terrain that partly surrounds the north pole. The picture shows a magnificent slanted view of the crater, composed of five different "bands" combined to form a larger single image. Each strip was obtained during another Mars Express orbit. There is also a context and topographic views of the crater.
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The ice that fills the crater extends greatly throughout the year – the central ice embankment maintains a thickness of 1.8 km. The crater acts as a cold trap, where the air cools and sinks as it moves over the ice layer, creating a layer of cool air that sits directly above the ice itself. This cold layer keeps the ice stable and prevents evaporation or sublimation. The crater itself is deep, with the crater floor lying about 2 kilometers under the crater of the crater.
The Korolev crash was recently recorded – partly by ESA "Tras Gas Orbiter" (TGO), part of the mission "Exomarx". TGO arrived on Mars last spring, and is designed to search the Martian atmosphere for trace gases – small amounts of certain gases such as methane.
The ice is honorable on Mars – both on the surface and on the underground – including water ice and ice on carbon dioxide. NASA's Land Phoenix landed in the frozen area near the north pole back in 2008 and directly taking part of the water ice just a few inches below the surface. Phoenix also spotted snow falling high in the atmosphere, although it did not reach the ground. So there is snow on Mars, but it never accumulates enough to go skiing or creating, unfortunately. On the other hand, craters filled with ice like Korolev could make some ideal skates for some future settlers from Marty!
Koralev Crater was named after Sergei Korolev, chief missile engineer and designer of spacecraft, who was named Father of Soviet Space Technology.
Mars Express was launched as early as 2003 and entered into orbit on Mars on December 25 of the same year – 15 years ago this week!
More information on Mars Express is available on the mission's website.
Bottom line: The "frozen pond" in Korelev Krater is a wonderful example of how the cold, icy ground on Mars can resemble similar places on Earth – the winter earth on Mars.