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ESA Spacecraft Captures Image Of 'Winter Wonderland On Mars'

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A stunning photo of what seemed to be an ice skating rink is circulating online, but it isn't a man-made one. It's actually the Korolev crater on Mars, captured in all its glory by the European Space Agency spacecraft.

From afar, it may look like a puddle of milk or an ice skating rink. However, it's one of the Red Planet's most picturesque features. The crater spans 82 kilometers across and 1.8 kilometers deep.

Mars' Korolev Crater Permanently Icy

Although some may say that the crater is filled with snow, it's actually brimming with ice. It is located at the south of Olympia Undae, the dune-filled terrain in the northern polar cap.

This wonderful view doesn't just appear during the Martian winter. It's a fixture on the Red Planet. This Mars crater was named after Russian scientist Sergei Korolev, dubbed as the father of Soviet space technology.

"This ever-icy presence is due to an interesting phenomenon known as a 'cold trap', which occurs as the name suggests," the ESA explained.

Despite the summer on the northern part of Mars that lasts for six months, the Korolev crater remains filled with ice. This is attributed to the deep parts that trap the moving air from above the surface by cooling and sinking it down. Therefore, cold air directly "sits" at the top.

Capturing The Stunning Mars Photo

Meanwhile, the breathtaking view is gaining attention, thanks to the technology used, a High Resolution Stereo Camera, from the ESA's Mars Express satellite, which has been circling around the planet for more than a decade already.

Such a remarkable photo, however, wasn't taken in one shot. It is actually a composite picture of different shots taken earlier this year by the Mars Express, which will be celebrating its 15th year on Dec. 25.

Other photos released were of an overhead and topographical angles. These pictures came just in time for the holidays, reminding everyone that Mars also has its own "Winter Wonderland."

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