Olympus Mons Facts: Learn About This Volcano Found On Mars


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Olympus Mons is a giant volcano on the surface of Mars.

It is the tallest mountain on Mars. It towers over the Martian landscape at the height of 16 mi (25 km).

Formed approximately 100 million years ago, Olympus Mons is a shield volcano in the Tharsis region of Mars. Apart from being the tallest mountain on the red planet, Olympus Mons is also the largest volcano and the tallest planetary mountain in our solar system. Now inactive, this giant mountain has quite a few interesting characteristics. Read on to know more about Olympus Mons in detail.

History Of Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons, the name conjures up images of gods and monsters, of a place where the impossible becomes a reality. But what is this legendary mountain, and how did it come to be? Let us find out the answers to these questions.

Volcanoes on Mars are dated according to the number of impact craters found on them. This is because Mars is constantly the subject of meteorite impact.

This red planet has three geological eras: the Noachian period, Hesperian period, and Amazonian period. It is believed that Olympus Mons formed during the latest of the three, the Amazonian period, because of the fewer impact craters on its surface. Hence, the gigantic volcano is relatively young. Dinosaurs were still around when the enormous Olympus Mons came into the picture.

Olympus Mons was a bright spot on the Martian surface, which helped 19th-century astronomers detect it. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, known for his study of Mars, used to call this spot 'Nix Olympica' or 'Olympic Snow.' He did not know that it was a massive volcano. It was called 'Nix Olympica' because of its reflective, albedo feature. The name was later changed.

Olympus Mons was first discovered by the Mariner 9 spacecraft in 1971. It took data from orbit and revealed that Olympus Mons is a shield volcano. After this discovery, the mountain's name was changed from 'Nix Olympic' to Olympus Mons. The new name was a reference to the mythical abode of the Greek gods, Mount Olympus. Like the mountain from the stories, Olympus Mons had a bright glow.

Characteristics Of Olympus Mons

Being three times taller than Mount Everest, Olympus Mons is one of the largest mountains in the solar system. Read on to learn more about this fascinating Martian landmark.

Olympus Mons is a shield volcano, which means its top looks like an upside-down cup because there's no deep hollow at the summit. Shield volcanoes are called so because their shape is similar to that of a warrior's shield.

It is located in the Tharsis region of Mars, in the western hemisphere of the planet. Tharsis is a volcanic plateau that contains other major volcanoes like the Arsia Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and Pavonis Mons. Olympus Mons is a massive shield volcano on Mars. It stands over 16 mi (25 km) tall and has a diameter of 374 mi (624 km). With these dimensions, Olympus Mons is about as wide as Arizona and roughly thrice as tall as Mount Everest and twice as tall as Mauna Kea. If you were to plop the Olympus Mons down on Earth, it would cover the entire state of Arizona or a big chunk of France.

To get an idea of how enormous the Olympus Mons is, compare it to the tallest volcanoes on Earth, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Historically considered the largest volcano on Earth, Mauna Loa is a shield volcano like the Olympus Mons. It measures 6.3 mi (10 km) high and 75 mi (120 km) wide. As large as that is, it is only 1/100th the size of Olympus Mons. You could fit the entire Hawaiian range of volcanic islands inside Olympus Mons.

The caldera at the top of Olympus Mons' summit measures a gigantic diameter of 50 mi (80 km). The exact coordinates of this humongous volcano are 18.65°N 226.2°E. The location of Olympus Mons is unsuitable for landing space probes and rovers. It lies in a very dusty portion of Mars with low density. Although it is the tallest volcanic mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons has a shallow slope. This is because of its broad base. From a bird's eye view, the largest volcano in the solar system looks like a flat pancake.

Volcanoes cause a lot of damage upon eruption.

Earth Volcanoes Vs. Mars Volcanoes

Volcanoes are fascinating geological features that can be found on many different planets and moons. Earth has several volcanoes, while Mars has a unique system of volcanoes much larger than ours. Although Mars is covered with volcanic pockets and structures, they are less active than the numerous volcanoes on Earth. For example, Arsia Mons, supposedly the youngest major volcano on the red planet, erupts only every one to three million years. Volcanoes on Earth are exponentially more volatile. The shield volcano Kilauea in Hawaii, for instance, hasn't cooled down at all since 1983.

Some of the reasons that make the volcanoes of Mars more dormant compared to those on Earth are factors like core heat, radioactivity, and tidal heating. Although Earth is more abundant in volcanoes, those on Mars are much larger. Martian volcanoes in the Tharsis region are easily 10-100 times larger than Earth volcanoes. There is a marked difference in lava flows between the red planet and our blue orb. Lava flows freely and for longer durations on Mars because of the absence of plate tectonics. The surface gravity of Mars is only a third of Earth's. Combined with the low crust activity, this is the reason for the much taller mountains found on Mars.


How did Olympus Mons get its name?

Olympus Mons is named after Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the Greek gods.

What is the highest peak of Olympus Mons?

The highest point on Olympus Mons is 16 mi (25 km) from the areoid (sea level).

What kind of volcano is Olympus Mons?

Olympus Mons is a shield volcano.

What is a myth about the volcano Olympus Mons?

Some theorize that the volcano was formed by an external force like Venus entering the solar system.

What is Olympus Mons?

Olympus Mons is a volcano on the planet Mars.

Where is it found?

It is found on the surface of Mars in the outskirts of the Tharsis region.


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