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Mars looks like a delicious dessert in stunning spacecraft image

Is that the red planet or red velvet cake?

The red planet looks good enough to eat in this Trace Gas Orbiter image of a crater. 

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Mars is so awesome, I could eat it up, and an image from the Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft has reinforced my desire to snack on the red planet. The European Space Agency released the view in late December, describing the scene as being "like a sprinkle of powdered sugar on a rich red velvet cake."

TGO is a joint mission from ESA and Russian space agency Roscosmos. It looked down on a distinctive 2.5-mile-wide (4-kilometer-wide) Martian crater in the middle of last year and snapped the remarkable image. 

The cake-like appearance comes from "the contrasting colors of bright white water-ice against the rusty red Martian soil," ESA said in a statement. The crater is located in the Vastitas Borealis region, a plains area near the planet's north pole.

The white ice in the crater shows up strongly in places where it doesn't get much sunlight. The rim around the crater is likely from dark volcanic material, while the streaky landscape surrounding the crater gets its look from wind action. 

TGO is part of ESA and Roscosmos's ExoMars program, which will send a rover to the planet later this year. The spacecraft is cataloging atmospheric gases and looking for water resources on and near the surface. It detected what scientists suspect is "hidden water" in a massive canyon on Mars

Considering that food resources will likely be restricted for future human explorers on Mars, the planet might not ever host a real red velvet cake. This crater will have to tide us over.