There was a time when the news that scientists may have found water on Mars fascinated and awed the world. And now is the time when there are actual pictures that show a hint of a possibility that it might be true.
The European Space Agency has revealed images captured by its Mars Express probe which show a giant crater called ‘Korolev’ on the surface of the Red Planet.
The crater has been named after chief rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev, who has been dubbed as the father of Soviet space technology.
The crater, which is found in the northern lowlands of Mars, just south of a large patch of dune-filled terrain that encircles part of the planet’s northern polar cap, is around 82 km wide and approximately 2 km deep.
According to the ESA, Korolev is a well-preserved example of a Martian crater and is filled with ice and not by snow.
The crater is constantly enveloped in ice due to a phenomenon called a ‘cold trap’ caused by the crater’s floor, lying two kilometres 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.
Acting as a shield, this layer helps the ice remain stable and stops it from heating up and disappearing.
Air is a poor conductor of heat, worsens the effect, thus resulting in keeping Korolev crater permanently icy.
ESA’s Mars Express mission was launched on June 2, 2003, and reached Mars six months later.