Ice on Promethei Planum, Mars.
Promethei Planum, near the south pole of Mars
Credit: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The European Space Agency (ESA) released a beautiful photo from the spacecraft today. The photo above shows Promethei Planum, a region near the south pole of which is covered by up to 3500m of ice during the Martian winter.

On the left of the photo, we can see a broad sheet of ice, which is an extension of the south polar ice cap. The steep flanks clearly show white, clean ice. The thickness of the ice is between 900 and 1100m. To the right of the ice sheet are structures that may have been created by basaltic lava flow from a volcano. The dark dunes towards the bottom of the image are most likely made up of dust originating from this lava flow or volcanic ash. Finally, the far right (or northern) side of the photo contains an impact crater, which is approximately 100 km wide and 800 m deep. The crater’s interior is partly covered in ice.

More photos are available from the ESA Mars Express web site.