See Mars' frigid south pole in new orbiter image

The Red Planet has a white spot on its south pole in a new photo from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
Mars south pole

Mars shows off its south pole.


Mars is known for its reddish hue, but not everything on the planet falls into line with that color scheme. The European Space Agency released a new look at Mars on Monday that shows the planet's startlingly white south pole contrasting with its dusky red landscape.

The photo comes from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter, which snapped the picture on October 16.

Mars' south pole gets its bright look from an ice cap made up mainly of carbon dioxide. According to NASA, carbon dioxide freezes at -193 degrees Fahrenheit (-125 degrees Celsius). That means it would be a terrible place to try to take a ski vacation.

The Mars Express spacecraft is equipped with a webcam that was originally meant to confirm the separation of the Beagle-2 lander back in 2003. It lived through several dark years before the ESA turned it back on in 2007 to capture wide-angle views of its host planet.

The ESA released the Mars Express image in celebration of its ExoMars mission arriving at the Red Planet this month. The ExoMars program is dedicated to exploring whether life ever existed on Mars.

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