New images show the magnitude of the largest volcano in the solar system

Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons | European Space Agency, German Aerospace Center, Vaux Berlin, Mars Express; Processing and licensing CC BY 2.0: Andrea Luck

The European Space Agency (ESA) has published new images taken by the spacecraft Mars Express satellite That show evidence of landslides and the turbulent past around the solar system’s most spectacular volcano: Olympus Mons.

Mars is home to the largest volcanoes in the entire solar system, the tallest being Olympus Mons. Originally seen by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft, it measures about 13.6 miles high at its summit, about 2.5 times taller than Mount Everest when measured from sea level.

Above is an old image of Olympus Mons as taken by the Mars Express spacecraft (which has been orbiting Mars since 2003), but it can be difficult to comprehend its full scale from such an image. like A pure volcanoThe slopes of Olympus Mons usually rise only a few degrees at a time, and so are spread across a truly gigantic area – they cover an area larger than the entire Hawaiian volcano chain.

New images of the area, including the Yalova crater and the much larger crater known as Lycus Sulci, provide not only details of how the area has changed over time, but also a level of scale to just how massive Olympus Mons is.

This image from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express shows the areas around Olympus Mons (a feature called Lycus Sulci, on the elevated halo surrounding the volcano).

Terrain colors represent terrain and elevation, from blue lows through orange-red, high-red to high peaks of white. The region marked by the bold white rectangular box indicates the region imaged by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera on January 18, 2023 during orbit 24056. The smaller white square shows the region featured in these new Mars Express images. | NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Team

(a) A feature highlighting the truly massive proportions of Olympus Mons can be seen to the right of the frame at Yelwa Crater. Although dwarfed by the vast Lycus Sulci crater, it is more than 8 kilometers in diameter, and is close to the height of Mount Everest. above sea level. says the European Space Agency.

This annotated image from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express shows the areas around Olympus Mons, which is the largest volcano not only on Mars but in the entire solar system. This feature, created by previous landslides and lava-driven rockslides, is called Lycus Sulci. North to the right. The ground resolution is about 19 m/pixel and the image is centered at about 28°N/212°E. | ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“Yelwa crater is located more than 1,000 kilometers from the summit of Olympus Mons, which shows how devastating landslides travel from the sides of the volcano before settling.”

Lycus sulsi and yellow crater
This brownish patch of Martian surface is visually divided in two diagonally from lower left to upper right: the upper half is smooth and contains a single impact crater (Yelua Crater), while the lower half is wrinkled, preserved, textured, and textured. in top relief. This ornate land is Lycus Sulci, on the halo of Mount Olympus Mons. | ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

New views of the area give scientists a better idea of ​​the history of this giant volcano, and there is evidence that the lower sides of Olympus Mons collapsed about 100 million years ago.

“Large amounts of lava once flowed down the volcano, triggering landslides that collapsed on its sides to meet the underlying rocks – in this case, the underlying rocks containing ice and water,” explains the European Space Agency.

“The superheated lava caused this ice to melt and become unstable; as a result, the rocky ledge of Olympus Mons broke off and partly slid away. This collapse came in the form of massive rockslides and landslides, which slid downward and spread widely across the surrounding plains.

This tilted view of Lycus Sulci on Mars was created from the digital terrain model and the isotope and color channels of the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express rover. The image shows a wrinkled, wrinkled terrain that borders the “halo” of Mount Olympus, Mars’ tallest and most majestic volcano. | ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Over time, as these landslides moved away from the volcano, they became compressed and stretched as they traveled across the surface, which is responsible for the patterns that appear in the new images of the area.

What can be seen from these images shows that although there are distinct differences between the topography or Earth and Mars, how the volcanoes age there shows similarities. Similar landslides, though certainly on a smaller scale, can be seen on volcanic islands such as Hawaii and the Canary Islands.

These images were taken using the Mars Express’ HRSC Camera, or High Resolution Stereo Camera. This system is capable of imaging the entire planet in full color, in 3D, with a resolution of about 10 metres.

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