The Exomars Trace Gas Orbiter or TGO began its science mission in 2018. The spacecraft is orbiting the Red Planet from an altitude of around 248 miles (400 km), and it’s equipped with several instruments that help it send back data to Earth. One of them is called CaSSIS, which is short for Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System.
The orbiter uses it to capture high-resolution images of our neighbor’s surface, searching for spots that feature ice water. One particular image sent by the TGO seems to fit the festive season too well: a crater that stands out against a reddish background, looking incredibly similar to a red velvet cake sprinkled with sugar.
It stands out because the soil that surrounds it has a somewhat uniform pattern. This pattern is represented by sand dunes, which were likely formed due to aeolian processes. There are some darker streaks in the bottom right of the image caused by winds that exposed a darker underlying substrate.
The crater, which is 2.5-mile (4-km) wide, also has some dark material on its rim that makes it look like a cake that has been left in the oven a bit too long. Located in the north polar region of Vastitas Borealis, the largest lowland region of Mars, the crater has some ice inside that contrasts nicely against the crimson-colored region. Nonetheless, this stunning image shows how interesting the rusty Martian soil can be.