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.
Click on image for full size
NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) Team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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
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.
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)
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.
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