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Mars: Isidis Planitia - Windows to the Universe

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This picture shows where Isidis Planitia is on Mars. The Mars globe on the left shows how Mars would look to your eyes if you were close to Mars. The globe on the right shows how high (or low) places on Mars are. Places that are high look red or orange on the right globe. Places that are low look green or blue on the right globe. You can see that Isidis Planitia is low because it is blue.
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

Isidis Planitia is a flat plain inside a very old crater on Mars. Isidis Planitia is about 1500 km (930 miles) across. It is just north of the equator on Mars on the eastern side of the Red Planet.

The crater was probably created about three or four billion years ago when a comet or a big asteroid slammed into Mars. The northern part of Mars is very low and flat. The southern part of Mars is much higher and has lots of hills. Isidis Planitia is right along the edge of the southern hills. It is connected to the flat plains in the north. Some scientists think that Mars had oceans a long time ago. If it did, those oceans probably covered the northern plains. Isidis Planitia might have been a bay along the edge of the northern seas.

A spacecraft called Mars Express went into orbit around Mars in December 2003. Mars Express had a lander called Beagle 2 that landed on Mars in the eastern part of Isidis Planitia. Beagle 2 is supposed to look for life on Mars. Scientists think that places that once had water are good places to look for life.

Last modified December 26, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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