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This is an image of Olympus Mons.
Click on image for full size
NASA

Olympus Mons

The largest volcano in the solar system is Olympus Mons, shown in the image to the left. Olympus Mons is a Martian shield volcano. The altitude of Olympus Mons is three times the altitude of the largest peak on Earth, Mt. Everest, and is as wide as the entire chain of Hawaiian Islands. Measurements returned by Mars Global surveyor demonstrate the unbelievable size of Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is a very large volcano for a body as small as Mars. Mars is three times smaller than the Earth! The size of Olympus Mons suggests something special about the surface of Mars and how Mars cooled over time.

Mars has several other *very* large volcanoes. Some of them are located on top of a big bulge in the side of Mars called the Tharsis Ridge. The volcanoes were formed in a manner similar to that in which the Hawaiian Islands came into being on Earth, namely from a hot balloon of material which rises from the deep interior of the planet and forms land on the surface. The size of these volcanoes suggests that, Mars had already cooled off and formed a crust thick enough to hold up the large volcanoes without allowing them to sink as they formed.


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Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms

What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more

Shield Volcanoes

Shield volcanoes can grow to be very big. In fact, the oldest continental regions of Earth may be the remains of ancient shield volcanoes. Unlike the composite volcanoes which are tall and thin, shield...more

The Cooling of Mars

Mars is small. Mars is about 1/3 the size of the Earth. This means that it cooled off very fast. Mars probably started colder than the other earth-like planets. Then, Mars cooled rapidly from the outside,...more

The Tharsis Ridge

This image, taken from the Mars Global Surveyor mission (MGS), shows the Tharsis Ridge, the green/blue area in the middle of the picture, as well as a portion of the southern hemisphere of Mars. The green...more

Volcanism

Volcanism is part of the process of bringing material from the deep interior of a planet and spilling it forth on the surface. Eruptions also eject new molecules into the atmosphere. Volcanism is part...more

Martian Cratered Terrain

This is an example of the cratered surface of Mars. Almost the entire surface of Mars is covered with craters. Craters can be wiped out over time, so a surface which has many craters is very old. The lowlands...more

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Unlike Earth, there is no continental drift on Mars today. The Martian surface does not seem to have changed or moved in billions of years. The evidence for this fact can be found in two ways. 1.) The...more

Martian Global Geography

The surface of Mars consists of highlands and lowlands. The highlands are in the southern hemisphere (the bottom of the figure), and the lowlands are in the northern hemisphere of Mars (top of the figure)....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA