The camera on board the ExoMars spacecraft on its “Trace Gas Orbiter” mission captured the view from the top of the tree-like crater on June 13, according to the Daily Mail.
The spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan in 2016, and has been orbiting the Red Planet for nearly four years.
And just like the rings in a slice of a tree trunk, the crater contains jagged fractures believed to have been caused by the expansion and contraction of water ice likely dating back millions of years.
The crater is located in the northern plains of Acidalia Planitia, which may once have been home to a vast ocean. Acidalia Planetia is covered in fields of rock that can be several meters high, making a chariot drive in this area difficult.
The tree rings provide snapshots of Earth’s past climate, and although they formed in a very different way, the patterns inside this crater reveal details about the history of the Red Planet as well.
These features are likely due to seasonal changes in temperature that cause expansion and contraction cycles of ice-rich materials, eventually leading to the development of fractures. It is believed that the tilt of the planet’s rotation axis through time allowed sediments to form.
Just as on Earth, the tilt of Mars causes seasons to increase, but unlike Earth, the tilt of Mars has changed dramatically over long periods of time.
“Expo Mars” program
The European Space Agency’s “Expo Mars” program consists of two missions. The first, Trice Gas Orbiter, arrived at Mars in 2016 and began its full science mission in 2018.
The second consisted of a British-made Rosalind Franklin rover and a surface platform. The mission should launch into space in September 2022 from southern Kazakhstan.
Understanding the history of water on Mars and whether this allows life to thrive on the planet is at the heart of the European Space Agency’s Mars Expo missions.
“The spacecraft, named Rosalind Franklin, will dig to a depth of two meters at the surface to take soil samples, analyze its composition and search for evidence of life buried underground in the past and possibly even the present,” the agency said.
Water on Mars
It is possible that the cavity of “Vales Marineris”, the largest valley of Mars, contains huge reserves of water and ice, up to a meter in depth, which were monitored by the FREND instrument of the Martian probe with a high-resolution detection of neutrons emitted from the soil.
The tool has mapped the hydrogen in the depths of the soil. It turns out that most of the water on Mars is located in the polar regions of the planet, where it remains frozen like water ice at the poles of Mars.
Vals Marineris is just south of the planet’s equator, where temperatures are usually not cold enough for water ice to survive.
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