We like the overpass video of other worlds. These amazing videos are made from images collected by orbiters, which can give us a sense of how it feels to fly on another planet by plane. The latest flyover video from the European Space Agency’s “Mars Express” spaceship provides a magnificent view of one of the most dazzling craters on Mars.
This movie was produced using images from Mars Express̵
The Korolev crater is 82 kilometers (50 miles) wide and at least 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) deep. The crater is well-preserved and is located in the northern lowlands of Mars, just south of the large dune-filled terrain that surrounds the arctic polar part of the planet (known as Olympia Onda).
What you see is not snow, but the crater is constantly filled with water ice, and its central mound is about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) thick all year round. It is one of the largest non-polar ice reservoirs on Mars.
This view reminded me of a flight over the crater in Arizona, USA. But for comparison, the width of the meteor crater is less than one mile (.737 miles/1.186 kilometers), and the depth is only 560 feet (170 m).
You may be wondering how to keep this ice layer stable in the Korolev crater? Will water ice in Mars’ thin atmosphere sublimate? Just like dry ice on Earth, water ice on Mars usually changes from solid to gas at low pressure. (Mars is about 8 mbar, and the average sea level pressure on Earth is 1013.25 mbar, or about 14.7 pounds per square inch.)
But temperature also affects the stability of ice. Water ice is permanently stable in the Korolev crater because the deepest part of the depression is a natural cold trap. ESA scientists explained that the air above the ice layer is cooler than the surrounding air and therefore heavier than the surrounding air: because the air is a poor conductor of heat, the water ice pile can effectively avoid heating and sublimation.
The name of the crater may be familiar. It is named after the Russian rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (1907-1966). He developed the first Russian intercontinental rocket R7, which was the predecessor of the modern Soyuz rocket and is still in operation. Through his rocket and spacecraft design, he was also responsible for the first artificial satellite (the artificial satellite in 1957) and the first human space flight (Yuri Gagarin in 1961).
Find more information about Mars Express and Korolev Crater here and here.
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