The European Space Agency (ESA) has recently shared a really interesting panoramic photograph of Mars, taken by the Mars Express spacecraft, which is hovering above the surface of Mars.
The panoramic photograph shows the South pole the planet, which gives us a good view of an ice cap on the planet. The image, shared just last week by the ESA, was taken on February 25th of this year.
The ESA says that the ice cap is comprised of frozen water and carbon dioxide ice, and that it changes in shape and size depending on the planet’s season.
On Mars, this time of the year is Summer, so this photograph was actually taken during the Summer time. The ESA says that when it’s Winter on Mars, this same ice cap is known to extend far out into the smoother plains surrounding the ice cap.
Despite the red hue of Mars, don’t be fooled – the planet isn’t hot. It’s further away the Sun than the Earth is, and reaches much colder temperatures than the Earth does.
Out beyond on the smoothness, you can see the cratered surface of Mars, which shows the impacts that the planet has taken over the course of its lifetime.
The ESA says that this panoramic photograph was taken much higher up from the surface of Mars than the spacecraft typically goes when it normally takes surface pictures.
This time, the spacecraft was positioned at 9900 kilometers above the planet’s surface, rather than its typical 300 kilometers. Being so high up gives the spacecraft the advantage of being able to see a large surface area of the planet at once.
This large panoramic photograph also gives the spacecraft what the ESA calls a “broom calibration” image, and that’s because it allows the spacecraft’s sensory equipment to use this photograph as a baseline for anything else it picks up when it goes closer to the planet’s surface again.