Mars’ Mysterious South Pole Revealed in New Photo

The icy south pole of Mars takes center stage in this amazing close up from a larger photo of the Martian south pole and cratered Hellas Basin region captured by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

By,, Oct. 15, 2015 – A newly released photo provides a great look at Mars’ seldom-seen South Pole.

The swirling white dot toward the bottom of the photo, which was taken by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, is the Red Planet’s south polar ice cap. The cap is composed of both frozen water and frozen carbon dioxide, and it changes shape with Mars’ seasons.

In 2004, Mars Express confirmed that the south polar cap contains water ice, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).