The surface of Mars isn't known for having much color diversity, but this image just released by the European Space Agency shows that the Red Planet can sometimes be white and chocolate-colored too.
"Smooth cream-colored plateaus surrounded by cocoa-dusted ridges interspersed with caramel-hued streaks create a scene reminiscent of a cosmic cappuccino," the ESA says of the image, waxing poetic and clearly jonesing for their morning cuppa.
The shot, taken by the ESA's Mars Express orbiter, shows an ice cap made of water and carbon dioxide at the planet's south pole. Interestingly, the chunk of ice isn't exactly on the pole, but located about 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of it, displaced by Martian winds that sweep toward Mars' southern tip.
Although the image looks like a melted hot fudge sundae, the ESA says the white area actually isn't as creamy as it appears. "While it looks smooth in this image, at close quarters the cap is a layered mix of peaks, troughs and flat plains, and has been likened in appearance to swiss cheese," the agency says.
According to the ESA, the shot was taken on December 17, 2012 by Mars Express using a high-resolution stereo camera in infrared, green and blue light. It was just released to the public Monday.
The Mars Express has been revolving around the Red Planet since late 2003. It was back in the news lately because it was the craft that deployed the Beagle-2 lander to the Martian surface on December 19, 2003. That lander failed to begin operations and hadn't been seen again until it was recently spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The Express has continued its mission, however, imaging the surface of the Red Planet and sending back information about the Martian moon, Phobos. It's expected to continue its work until 2018.