The European Space Agency (ESA) has captured what appears to be a large spot of pristine snow in the Korolev crater on Mars.
That's about 55 million miles away from our Christmas celebrations.
The photograph, which in a quick glance could be confused with a snowy peak in the Andes, was taken by Mars Express, the first planetary mission undertaken by ESA.
The spacecraft arrived on Mars in 2003 and is celebrating 15 continuous years in space. It is currently the second surviving active spacecraft to orbit around a planet other than Earth, surpassed only by NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey, which has been circulating our red neighbor for 17 years.
Located in the lowlands of northern Mars, Korolev is a particularly well-preserved example of a Martian crater with 82 kilometers in diameter. It was named in honor of Russian designer and rocket engineer Sergei Korolev, who is often considered the father of Soviet space technology for his contribution to the Sputnik and Vostok programs – the latter being what led cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to space.
Although it looks like snow, what we see in the photo is ice. According to ESA, the center of the crater houses a heap of water ice about 1.8 kilometers thick.
The Korolev crater acts as a trap for low temperatures, making it difficult to merge these ice deposits.
"The deeper parts of the Korolev crater, those that contain ice, act as a natural trap for the cold," ESA explained in a blog post.
"The air that moves over the ice tank cools and sinks, creating a layer of cold air that lies directly above the ice itself."
This layer of air acts as a shield that prevents the ice from heating and thawing, making it look like Christmas in Korolev year-round.