New images of Mars show a huge crater that measures nearly 51 miles across and is filled with ice year-round, the European Space Agency reported.
Run as the Korolev crater, located near the North American North Pole, is topped by "what seems to be a great patch of fresh, unshakable snow – a dream for the holiday lovers", says a statement by ESA, which released the photos Thursday.
But the space agency noted that the red planet is "a little too distant for a last minute escape car." (Mars is about 140 million miles from Earth, according to NASA. The distance can vary considerably, as each planet moves in its own orbit around the sun.)
The Marshall was named Sergei Korolev, the chief architect of the Soviet space program. Korolev, who died in 1966, worked on behalf of the Moon and Mars, and the launch of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite.
The icy crater floor is more than a mile below the rim, helping to create a phenomenon called a cold trap, which keeps the ice stable and permanently frozen, ESA said.
The Christmas Day will mark 15 years since the Mars Express spacecraft began to traverse the planet. Also on December 25, 2003, the Beagle 2 lander was released from the spacecraft and safely reached the planet's surface, but failed to function fully.
The oblique view of the image of the crater is a composite created by image strips assembled by the Mars Express spacecraft's high definition stereo camera under orbit around the planet in April last year, ESA said.
"Currently, there is no liquid water on Mars, but there is a large amount of ice," according to DLR, Germany's space agency. "The Earth's two polar caps consist of a mixture of carbon dioxide and water ice, which varies greatly in relation to each other depending on the season."
Last summer, Italian scientists, when analyzing data from the Mars Express spacecraft, said they found strong evidence of a lake of briny liquid beneath the surface of Mars, NPR reported. 's Joe Palca.
The discovery sparked excitement about the possibility that life once existed on the planet, as scientists say liquid water is a necessary ingredient.
The Mars Express mission was recently joined by one from NASA called InSight, a robot lander seeking to discover how Mars was formed by mapping the planet's core, crust and mantle. The InSight probe landed successfully on March 26, NPR reported.