Education Portal is now! Same great content, just under a new name. Learn more

Olympus Mons: Facts, Height, & Quiz

Instructor: Katie Chamberlain

Katie has a PhD in Microbiology and has experience preparing online education content in Biology and Earth Science.

If Mars is ever open for tourism, Earth's mountain climbers might be the first to sign up. In this lesson, you will get all the little details about Mars's big beast of a mountain, Olympus Mons.

We also recommend watching Francisco Pizarro: Route, Facts & Quiz and Peter the Great & the Westernization of Russia: Facts, History & Quiz


Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the direct neighbor of Earth. It was named after the Roman god of war, and it has been captivating astronomers for thousands of years. Its surface is covered in an iron rich regolith (loose rock and dust) that is the source of its nickname, The Red Planet.

Mars is peppered with many amazing surface features such as volcanoes and valleys. It is the home to the impressive Valles Marineris system of canyons. It is also the site of four giant shield volcanoes: Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and Olympus Mons.

Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons

History of Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons was described by astronomers as far back as the 19th century.The Olympus name comes from the mountain home of the 12 Greek gods. It was Giovanni Schiaparelli who first named it Nix Olympica (snows of Olympus) in 1879 when he observed it as a light colored spot. The name was later changed to Olympius Mons later when it was better visualized and determined to be a volcano.


Olympus Mons is a shield volcano with very broad gradual slopes created by lava flows. It is 22 km higher than the surrounding plains area (27km from the average surface height on Mars) and 550 km wide. Think of it as being the size of the state of Arizona, but three times higher than Mt. Everest. The crater at the top is 80 km long and is actually a complex of six craters that spans 60 km wide and 3 km deep. The broad slopes abruptly end in cliffs that are 6 km tall.

Topography map of Olympus Mons
Topography map of Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons holds the title for tallest mountain in the solar system, and it is the second tallest mountain in the Universe. It likely became so large because Mars does not have tectonic plates. Therefore, the lava was likely able to flow outwards from a hotspot in the same place for quite a long time with no crust shifts to impede it.

The volcano is located in Mars's western hemisphere near the uplifted Tharsis bulge region. Since Mars is a small planet, and the slopes of Olympus Mons are so gradual, the edge of the volcano cannot be seen as it extends further than the horizon. Olympus Mons is so tall that it is often the only thing visibly protruding through Mars's massive dust storms.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Start Your Free Trial To Take This Quiz

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 10,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.

Free 5-day trial
It only takes a few minutes to set up and you can cancel at any time.
Already registered? Login here for access

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 100 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.