Olympus Mons (from Orbit)

This picture clearly shows how large and flat Olympus Mons is. Although the volcano is nearly 27 km high, it is over 20 times wider than it is tall. Thus, most of the volcano has a fairly gentle surface slope. The image also shows the distinct cliff which marks the base of Olympus Mons. In places, this scarp is up to 6 km high. In other places, it is hidden under lava flows cascading out into the surrounding lava plains. This cliff is unique among the giant shield volcanoes on Mars. The rough, crinkly areas around Olympus Mons are also unusual. They form the Olympus Mons Aureole. Both the Aureole and the basal cliff are poorly understood. However, their origins may be related. In one theory, the basal cliff was formed by many large landslides. The Aureole marks material piled up at the bottom of these landslides. (Viking image mosaic from Carr et al, 1977, J. Geophys. Res., vol. 82, p. 3996.)


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