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Become a nitrogen atom in the nitrogen cycle in our Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit/Game. See all our games, activity kits and classroom activities.
This picture shows Meridiani Planum, which is where Opportunity landed. The yellow oval, which is 81.5 km (50 miles) long, shows the area that Opportunity landed within.
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Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell using images courtesy NASA/JPL.

MER Opportunity Landing Site - Meridiani Planum

Two Mars Exploration Rover (MER) vehicles landed on Mars in January 2004. The second, named "Opportunity", landed at a place called Meridiani Planum. Meridiani Planum is a flat plain ("planum" means "plain"); a safe place to land! Opportunity actually ended up inside a small, shallow crater that is about 20 meters (66 feet) across.

Scientists think a mineral named gray hematite might be found at Meridiani Planum. On Earth, gray hematite usually forms in wet places. Scientists want to know whether some places on Mars used to be wet. Opportunity is looking for rocks that may have formed in wet places. That is why Opportunity landed at Meridiani Planum.

Meridiani Planum is near the equator on Mars. It is also near the Prime Meridian on Mars; that's where the name "Meridiani" comes from. The Prime Meridian is the place on a planet where the longitude is equal to zero. The Prime Meridian on Earth passes through Greenwich, England.

Opportunity is on the opposite side of the Red Planet from its twin rover, Spirit. Spirit landed at a place called Gusev Crater.

Last modified December 31, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF