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This image shows Meridiani Planum, the landing site for Opportunity. The yellow oval, which is 81.5 km by 11.5 km (50 by 7 miles), indicates the area within which Opportunity landed.
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Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell using images courtesy NASA/JPL.

MER Opportunity Landing Site - Meridiani Planum

The second Mars Exploration Rover (MER), named "Opportunity", landed at a site on Mars known as Meridiani Planum. This flat plain is one of the few places on Mars where the mineral gray hematite is found in large concentrations. On Earth, hematite deposits usually indicate that water was present in an area for long periods. The main goal of the MER missions is to discover and examine geologic formations that imply the presence of water at some time. Scientists chose Meridiani Planum as a MER landing site primarily because of the hematite deposits detected there.

Opportunity landed within an 81.5 km long by 11.5 km wide (50 mile by 7 mile) ellipse centered at 1.98 South latitude and 5.96 West longitude. The site is roughly on the opposite side of the Red Planet from Gusev Crater, the landing site of "Spirit", Opportunity's twin. Meridiani Planum is a flat plain ("planum" means "plain") near the prime meridian on Mars (the arbitrarily chosen location of the line of zero longitude) that offered a safe landing site for the rover to touch down. Opportunity bounced to a halt within the landing ellipse on January 24, 2004. The airbag ball Opportunity was encased within during landing actually ended up resting inside of a shallow, small crater that is about 20 meters (66 feet) across.

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 is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA