This image shows the location of Isidis Planitia and several other features on a globe of Mars. The globe on the left is roughly how the Eastern Hemisphere of Mars would look to your naked eye. The right-hand globe is an "elevation map" of Mars. Red and orange indicate highlands and green and blue indicate lower elevations. The two globes don't quite match; you would need to turn the elevation map globe slightly to the right to have the same viewpoint as shown in the other globe.
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NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) Team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Isidis Planitia

Isidis Planitia is flat plain within an ancient impact crater on the surface of Mars. Isidis Planitia is about 1500 km (930 miles) across. It is just north of the Martian equator near the center of the Eastern Hemisphere of the Red Planet. Its center is located at approximately 13° North latitude and 87° East longitude.

The impact crater was probably formed around three to four billion years ago when a comet or a 50 km (31 mile) diameter asteroid slammed into Mars. Scientists think the floor of the crater may have been flooded by lava at some later time. Later still sedimentary deposits may have buried the lava flows. Isidis Planitia lies along the boundary between the ancient Martian highlands that cover the southern portion of the planet and the younger plains that dominate Mars' Northern Hemisphere. Some scientists believe that Mars once had abundant liquid water on its surface, and that the northern plains might have once been under oceans. If that is true, Isidis Planitia might have been a bay of the northern seas jutting into the southern highlands, or a large lake near the edge of the northern seas.

An area within the eastern part of Isidis Planitia is the intended target of the Beagle 2 lander portion of the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Mars Express mission. Beagle 2's mission is to search for signs of life. ESA mission planners thought Isidis Planitia would be a good place to land and search for life because of the likelihood that there was once water in the area.

Last modified December 26, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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