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Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons alt.jpg
Wide view of the Olympus Mons aureole, escarpment and caldera
Coordinates 18°24′N 226°00′E / 18.4°N 226°E / 18.4; 226[1]Coordinates: 18°24′N 226°00′E / 18.4°N 226°E / 18.4; 226[1]
Peak 27 km MSL
Discoverer Mariner 9
Eponym Latin - Mount Olympus

Olympus Mons (Latin for "Mount Olympus") is a mountain which is located on the planet Mars at approximately 18°24′N 226°00′E / 18.4°N 226°E / 18.4; 226.[1] . It is a little under three times as tall as Mount Everest, and is in fact the tallest known volcano and mountain in the Solar System. Mount Olympus was formed during Mars' Amazonian epoch. Since the late 19th century — well before space probes confirmed its identity as a mountain — Olympus Mons was known to astronomers as the albedo feature Nix Olympica (Latin for "Snows of Olympus"), although its mountainous nature was suspected.[2]


General description

Olympus Mons

The central edifice stands 21 kilometers (around 13.05 miles/approx. 68897 ft) high above the mean surface level of Mars[3][4] (about three times the elevation of Mount Everest above sea level and 2.6 times the height of Mauna Kea above its base). It is 550 km (342 miles) in width, flanked by steep cliffs, and has a caldera complex that is 85 km (53 miles) long, 60 km (37 miles) wide, and up to 3 km (1.8 miles) deep with six overlapping pit craters. Its outer edge is defined by an escarpment up to 6 km (4 miles) tall, unique among the shield volcanoes of Mars. For a size comparison Olympus Mons is approximately the size of the U.S. State of Arizona.

Both the size of Olympus Mons and its shallow slope (2.5 degrees central dome surrounded by 5 degree outer region) means that a person standing on the surface of Mars would be unable to view the upper profile of the volcano even from a distance, as the curvature of the planet and the volcano itself would obscure it. However, one could view parts of Olympus: standing on the highest point of its summit, the slope of the volcano would extend beyond the horizon, a mere 3 kilometers away;[5] from the three kilometer elevated caldera rim one could see 80 kilometers to the caldera's other side; from the southeast scarp highpoint (about 5 km (3 mi) elevation)[6] one could look about 180 km (112 mi) southeast; from the northwest scarp highpoint (about 8 km (5 mi) elevation) one could look upslope possibly 240 km (149 mi) and northeast up to 230 km (143 mi).

An occasional misconception is that the top of Olympus Mons is above the Martian atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure at the top varies between 5 and 8% of the average Martian surface pressure (600 pascals)[7][8]; by comparison the atmospheric pressure at the summit of Mount Everest is about 32 percent of Earth's sea level pressure (about 100,000 pascals).[9] Even so, airborne Martian dust is still present and high altitude carbon dioxide-ice cloud cover is still possible at the peak of Olympus Mons, though water-ice clouds are not. Although the average Martian surface atmospheric pressure is less than one percent of that seen on Earth, the much lower gravity on Mars allows its atmosphere to extend much higher, as lower gravity increases scale height.

Two of the craters on Olympus Mons have been provisionally assigned names by the IAU. These are the 15.6 km (10 mi) diameter Karzok crater (18°25′N 131°55′W / 18.417°N 131.917°W / 18.417; -131.917) and the 10.4 km (6 mi) diameter Pangboche crater (17°10′N 133°35′W / 17.167°N 133.583°W / 17.167; -133.583).[10]


Olympus Mons is a shield volcano, the result of highly fluid lava flowing out of volcanic vents over a long period of time, and is much wider than it is tall; the average slope of Olympus Mons' flanks is very gradual. In 2004 the Mars Express orbiter imaged old lava flows on the flanks of Olympus Mons. Based on crater size and frequency counts, the surface of this western scarp has been dated from 115 million years old down to a region that is only 2 million years old.[11] This is very recent in geological terms, suggesting that the mountain may yet have some ongoing volcanic activity.

The Hawaiian Islands are examples of similar shield volcanoes on a smaller scale (see Mauna Kea). The extraordinary size of Olympus Mons is likely because Mars does not have tectonic plates. Thus, the crust remained fixed over a hotspot and the volcano continued to discharge lava, bringing it to such a height. [12]

The caldera at the peak of the volcano was formed after volcanism ceased and the roof of the emptied magma chamber collapsed. During the collapse the surface became extended and formed fractures. Later additional caldera collapses were formed due to subsequent lava production. These overlapped the original circular caldera, giving the edge a less symmetric appearance.[13]

Early observations and naming

The mountain, as well as a few other of the volcanoes in the Tharsis region, has sufficient height to reach above the frequent dust storms of Mars, and it was visible from Earth already to 19th century observers. The astronomer Patrick Moore points out that during dust storms, "Schiaparelli had found that his Nodus Gordis and Olympic Snow were almost the only features to be seen. He guessed correctly that they must be high".[14] Only with the Mariner probes could this be confirmed with certainty. After the Mariner 9 probe had photographed it from orbit in 1972, it became clear that the altitude was much greater than that of any mountain found on Earth, and the name was changed to Olympus Mons.


Caldera and pit craters on Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons is located in the Tharsis bulge, a huge swelling in the Martian surface that bears numerous other large volcanic features. Among them are a chain of lesser shield volcanoes including Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons and Ascraeus Mons, which are small only in comparison to Olympus Mons itself. The land immediately surrounding Olympus Mons is a depression in the bulge 2 km (1 mi) deep.

The volcano is surrounded by a region known as the Olympus Mons aureole (Latin, "circle of light") with gigantic ridges and blocks extending 1,000 km (621 mi) from the summit that show evidence of development and resurfacing connected with glacial activity. Both the escarpment and the aureole are poorly understood. In one theory, this basalt cliff was formed by landslides, and the aureole consists of material they deposited. A view of this escarpment (scarp/cliff) is shown in the picture taken by HiRISE below.

See also


  1. ^ a b Blue, Jennifer. "Olympus Mons". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  2. ^ Patrick Moore 1977, Guide to Mars, London (UK), Cutterworth Press, p.96
  3. ^ kyle was here Highest and lowest points on Mars NASA
  4. ^ Plescia, Jeff (1997-10-01). "Height of Martian vs. Earth mountains". Questions and Answers about Mars terrain and geology. Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  5. ^ Martian Volcanoes on HST Images How Far Could I See Standing on Olympus Mons, "2.37 miles", Jeff Beish, Former A.L.P.O. Mars Recorder
  6. ^ Spreading of the Olympus Mons volcanic edifice, Mars. P. J. McGovern, 2005, Lunar and Planetary Science XXXVI (2005), Figure 2b showing profiles with NE and SW scarp highpoints
  7. ^ Public Access to Standard Temperature-Pressure Profiles Standard Pressure Profiles measured by MGS Radio Science team at 27 km (17 mi) range from approx 30 to 50 pascals
  8. ^ Late Martian Weather! temperature/pressure profiles 1998 to 2005
  9. ^ Kenneth Baillie and Alistair Simpson. "High altitude barometric pressure". Apex (Altitude Physiology Expeditions). Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  10. ^ Blue, Jennifer (2006-04-07). "New names on Olympus Mons". USGS.,-Mars.html. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  11. ^ Martel, Linda M. V. (2005-01-31). "Recent Activity on Mars: Fire and Ice". Planetary Science Research Discoveries. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Olympus Mons - the caldera in close-up". ESA. 2004-02-11. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  14. ^ Moore 1977, Guide to Mars, p.120

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Named in 1973 after the albedo feature Nix Olympica (Snows of Olympus).

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


Olympus Mons

  1. (planetology) An extinct volcano and prominent feature on the planet Mars, notable as the highest mountain in the solar system (elevation: 27 kilometers).

Simple English

Olympus Mons is a volcano on Mars. It is the tallest volcano, and mountain, in the solar system.


Olympus Mons is 27 km (17 mi) high.[1] This is three times bigger than the biggest mountain on Earth: Mount Everest.


bjn:Olympus Mons


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