This image shows the region on Mars in the vicinity of Gusev Crater. The left part of the image is a grayscale "photo" of the area. The right-hand part of the picture is color-coded to indicate elevations; green represents low places, orange and red indicate higher elevations. The central image is a global view of Mars, centered on 180° W longitude, with the location of Gusev Crater marked. For reference, Gusev Crater is roughly 130 km (81 miles) across; Mars is about 6,794 km (4,222 miles) in diameter.
Click on image for full size
Images courtesy NASA.
Gusev Crater location on Mars
Gusev Crater is an impact crater on Mars that
looks as though a lake may have once filled it in the distant past. One
of the two Mars
Exploration Rovers (MER) will explore Gusev Crater beginning in January
Gusev Crater is about 145 km (90 miles) wide and covers an area roughly
the size of the state of Connecticut. It is located at 14.6° South
latitude and 175.3° East longitude, along the boundary between Mars'
southern highlands and
northern plains. The crater is about
3,000 km (1,900 miles) southeast of the volcano Elysium Mons. Scientists
believe the Gusev Crater was formed by the impact of an asteroid three
to four billion years ago.
A valley named Ma'adim Vallis, which is connected
to the south side of the crater, looks like it may have been a river
channel that poured water into
the crater in the past, forming a large lake. If the crater was indeed
a lake, scientists expect it to contain layers
of sediments as much as 915 meters (3,000 feet) thick that flowed in with the water. There may
be other clues to a watery past within the crater, such as deposits
of minerals, such as halite and gypsum,
that form when water evaporates. Wet environments are the best places to look for life,
which is why scientists are so eager to track down places on Mars that were once wet.
robot Spirit is slated to land somewhere within an
81 km by 12 km (50 by 7 miles) oval
near the center of Gusev Crater. Once settled into its new "home", Spirit will begin its mission of
exploring for geologic evidence of the presence of water in Gusev Crater's past.
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