India's Mars Orbiter Mission Captures Beautiful Image of the Solar System's Biggest Volcano
India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has been broadcasting some truly breathtaking views of our planetary neighbor in recent weeks, but this latest global image is definitely one of our favorites. Contained within this latest shot - taken with MOM's tri-color camera - are the solar system's largest known volcano (Olympus Mons) and one of the largest known canyons (Valles Marineris).
With global views such as these, it is often hard to really get a sense of the enormity of these two landmarks. Olympus Mons, one of the youngest volcanoes on the planet, measures approximately 22km (14 miles) high. That's almost 3 times the height of Mount Everest's vertical span above sea level!
But Olympus Mons is not just huge in the vertical sense. With a maximum slope gradient of just 5°, Olympus Mons covers a huge amount of martian land as it slowly builds its way up to a 14 mile high peak. The base of Olympus Mons is thought to cover an area of approximately 295,000 sq km (119,000 sq mi), that's roughly the size of Arizona!
But where Olympus Mons wins on height, it is dwarfed in terms of the area it covers when compared to Valles Marineris. Named after the 1971 Mariner Mars probe that discovered it, Valles Marineris is a colossal system of deep valleys that stretches out across more than 4,000km of equatorial Mars. Its depth of 7km (4.3k mi) is surpassed only by that of the Romanche Trench which sits 7.8km (4.8mi) below Earth's Atlantic ocean.
To put that into perspective, if you were to put Valles Marineris here on Earth, it would comfortably cover the width of the entire mainland of the United States!
Collecting images such as this global view is all part of ISRO's plan for MOM during its 6 month primary mission. At a cost of just $73 million, India's MOM sent out a statement to the rest of the world that India is capable of both competing and collaborating with other major space-faring countries such as the US, Russia and most importantly, their neighbors China.