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Even though our planet's highest peaks are amazing, they are not nearly as tall as the highest mountains in our solar system. Specifically, Olympus Mons is a massive volcano that stretches 374 miles and rises 16 miles above the nearby plains on Mars. It is actually so wide that it doesn't resemble a typical mountain on Earth. It would just look like a gentle slope if you were standing on it. To put its height in perspective, Olympus Mons is about the size of the state of Arizona and the width of France, and it is three times higher than Mount Everest (5.5 miles).

It is even larger than the highest volcano on Earth, Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which rises 2.6 miles above sea level and 6.3 miles above the sea floor.

Olympus Mons is a shield volcano that is situated close to the Martian equator in the Tharsis Montes region. This indicates that lava slowly flowed down its sides to create it instead of ejecting molten material with great force. The mountain appears nearly flat as a result, with an average slope of only 2º to 5º. The form of Olympus Mons is the product of thousands of extremely thin basaltic lava flows.

A 53-mile-diameter crater, or caldera, made up of multiple craters that intersect one another, is located at the summit. Its enormous size has long been explained by the stability of the Martian crust and a protracted accumulation period—it may have formed over billions of years. Still, the mountain may only be a few million years old in some places. This suggests that there's a chance it's still an active volcano with potential for eruption. Its volcanic activity is thought to have continued for hundreds of millions of years, far longer than that of any other volcano on Earth, according to scientists.

The sweeping features of Olympus Mons serve as another illustration of how Earth and Mars differ from one another. Plate tectonics distributes magma on Earth, preventing terrestrial volcanoes from becoming ever-taller over time. Mars, on the other hand, is too tiny for plate tectonics. This made it possible for the lava on Mars to build up higher due to a reduced surface gravity.

Olympus Mons is surrounded by towering cliffs that contain geological evidence that has raised concerns about its past. Anthony Hildenbrand of Université Paris-Saclay led a team that published a study in 2023 that showed Olympus Mons resembles volcanic islands on Earth, like the Azores and the Canary Islands, indicating that it was once a volcanic island.

Even NASA is still unsure about Olympus Mons, but scientists have managed to obtain progressively stunning photos of this enormous volcano, which have helped us understand important aspects of the Martian terrain and its intricate features.

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