Did you know that Martians enjoy ice skating? This is a thing I have long suspected but never proved, owing largely to the distance that separates our trash planet from the red one. But now, thanks to findings transmitted to Earth from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe, I can confirm that an enormous crater exists on Mars, that it is filled with an ice layer nearly 6,000 feet thick, and that aliens go skating all year round.
On Thursday, the ESA released a composite image of the Korolev crater, named for Soviet rocket scientist and space father Sergei Korolev, according to CNN. This gaping Mars hole measures just over 50 miles across and looks more or less exactly like a spooky Halloween punch bowl someone spiked with dry ice for enhanced ambiance, or like a skating rink. Here she is, seen from another angle:
According to The Guardian, this very impressive pit could accommodate the entire liquid contents of Canada’s Great Bear Lake, if it wanted to. How does so much water stay so solidly icy, you ask? Apart from space being very cold, which was my first guess, the crater’s lip traps the “thin Martian air” in the crater, where it settles over the ice like an insulating blanket. According to NBC — which also thinks this Martian wonder looks like a hulking ice rink, thanks — the crater’s close proximity to the Red Planet’s polar ice caps also helps keep the temps cool enough for skating.
These particular pics represent the fruit of 15 years of Express probe labor.(Almost to the day: per The Guardian, it originally launched on Christmas day 2003.) In July, Express instruments also detected a vast liquid reservoir sealed beneath the planet’s frigid surface. Despite its “extremely cold and salty” nature, the existence of water on Mars fueled scientific excitement about the planet’s life-supporting properties. So when the aliens do eventually amble over to Earth, despite our warnings about the extremely futile nature of that venture, at least we will have a common interest (ice skating) to discuss.