This image shows the location of Meridiani Planum on Mars.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell using images courtesy NASA/JPL.
Meridiani Planum location on Mars
Meridiani Planum is a small, flat region near the equator on Mars. As
is the case on Earth, locations on Mars are specified by stating their
latitude and longitude. Meridiani Planum is near the prime meridian, the
arbitrarily chosen location of the 0° longitude line, on Mars; hence
the name "Meridiani". "Planum" means "plain", and Meridiani Planum is indeed
a flat area.
Meridiani Planum is the location of the largest known concentration on
Mars of the mineral gray hematite.
On Earth, hematite deposits usually indicate that water was
present in an area for long periods. Scientists are interested in Meridiani
Planum because of the possibility that it could provide clues about the
history of water in Mars' past. Meridiani Planum
was chosen as
site for the second Mars
Exploration Rover, named Opportunity, because of the chance that evidence for water might be found there.
An area called Margaritifer Terra, which is the easternmost end of the
vast Valles Marineris canyon,
is located just west of Meridiani Planum. Margaritifer Terra is a jumbled
landscape that looks very much like the scene of large scale flooding.
Chryse Planitia, northwest of Meridiani Planum, has many features that
seem to indicate water flowed in that area as well. Meridiani Planum is on the
boundary between Mars'
southern highlands and its northern lowland plains.
If Mars ever had oceans covering
those northern lowlands, Meridiani Planum might have been a shallow area within them similar to the continental
shelves of Earth's seas. There are many reasons to think that Meridiani Planum is a good place to look
for evidence of water in Mars' past.
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