Nasa has released a stunning image of an asteroid with three adjacent impact craters on its surface which are aligned in such a way that they resemble a snowman.

Asteroids often collide with other objects as they hurtle through space, leaving their surfaces covered in various markings and craters.

"Do you want to build a snowman?" NASA tweeted alongside the photo. "Three well-placed impacts stacked this one on the surface of a giant asteroid."

The peculiar festive image was captured by the space agency's Dawn spacecraft in 2011. The mission, which was launched in 2007, is now exploring the dwarf planet Ceres – the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

This is not the first time that Nasa has released intriguing images which appear to show recognisable objects on distant worlds.

In 2015, the agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been studying the Red Planet since 2006, captured an image of a region near the Martian pole which contained a feature resembling a smiley face.

In real life, the face measures around 500 metres across.

Smiley face on Mars
A 'smiley face' feature on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS