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Viewing the edge of the tallest volcano in our solar system

Olympus Mons towers over the Martian surface.
Olympus Mons towers over the Martian surface. Mars
A colour-based topographical image of the southeastern flank of Olympus Mons. The transitions from the sloping flanks of the volcano (white, red and yellow colours) to the steep cliff faces (green to light blue) and the smooth plains at its base (dark blue) can clearly be seen.
A colour-based topographical image of the southeastern flank of Olympus Mons. The transitions from the sloping flanks of the volcano (white, red and yellow colours) to the steep cliff faces (green to light blue) and the smooth plains at its base (dark blue) can clearly be seen. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
The southeastern flank of Olympus Mons. The image highlights the stark contrast between the hundreds of narrow, individual lava flows on the flanks of the volcano, and the smooth lava plains that surround it.
The southeastern flank of Olympus Mons. The image highlights the stark contrast between the hundreds of narrow, individual lava flows on the flanks of the volcano, and the smooth lava plains that surround it. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
The paths of numerous individual lava flows from Olympus Mons can be seen curving around natural obstacles and cascading like waterfalls over cliff edges.
The paths of numerous individual lava flows from Olympus Mons can be seen curving around natural obstacles and cascading like waterfalls over cliff edges. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Put on your 3D glasses! A 3D image of the flanks of Olympus Mons.
Put on your 3D glasses! A 3D image of the flanks of Olympus Mons. ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

TORONTO – The European Space Agency is providing a close-up view of the tallest volcano in our solar system — and it’s on Mars.

On Jan. 21, 2013, the ESA’s Mars Express focused on the southeast part of the massive Martian volcano and took several images of lava flows frozen in time.

Olympus Mons is truly massive. It is 624 km in diameter and reaches 25 km into the sky. To put things in perspective, the distance from Toronto to Montreal is roughly 550 km. Comparatively, Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, is 120 km wide and 17 km high.

Shield volcanoes, like Olympus Mons and Mauna Loa, are gently sloping volcanoes. However, Olympus Mons has a cliff, called a scarp, that separates it from the surrounding plains. The scarp circles the Olympus Mons and reaches 9 km high.

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The images are further proof that at one time, Olympus Mons was a very active volcano. However, scientists believe that it stopped being active tens of millions of years ago.