Pack your ski boots. Grab a warm jacket. Don’t forget the hot cocoa. The European Space Agency released a set of images on Thursday of a very interesting Mars crater, and the views are perfect for the holiday season.
The views of Korolev crater come from images and data collected by Mars Express, an ESA orbiter that’s studying the planet’s atmosphere and geology while looking for traces of water.
“This image shows what appears to be a large patch of fresh, untrodden snow — a dream for any lover of the holiday season,” ESA says.
But that’s not snow. The crater is located near the northern polar cap and it’s filled with ice that’s about 1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) thick near the center.
Korolev gets its icy appearance from acting as a 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,” ESA explains. This layer of cold stabilizes the ice and prevents it from warming up and fading away.
The crater stretches almost 51 miles (82 kilometers) across, which is like putting two marathons back to back. While it looks inviting, don’t expect to go cross-country skiing there anytime soon. We’re far away from even setting a human foot on Mars, but we can still dream.