Frozen Mars Crater Looks Like Red Velvet Cake With Powdered Sugar on Top

Every now and then, we’re blessed with incredible pictures sent by rovers or orbiters from our closest neighbors. This time, we’re seeing a crater formed in the rusty Martian soil that resembles a red velvet cake with some powdered sugar on top. Except that the sugar is actually ice that was captured by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
Frozen Mars crater 6 photos
Photo: ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS
Strange nipple-like impact crater on MarsStrange nipple-like impact crater on MarsUtopia Planitia region of MarsImpact crater on MarsWater ice in the Vastitas Borealis crater
The orbiter arrived at Mars in 2016. It’s a collaborative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Roscosmos designed to provide a complex inventory of the planet’s atmospheric gases and map its surface, helping scientists trace signs of biological or geological activity.

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.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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