Nothing compares to reaching the top of a mountain and gasping in air as you take in the breathtaking scenery below. Some are drawn to climbing the world’s highest mountains in order to experience this sense of success; the most well-known of them being Mount Everest in the Himalayan mountain range.
Even while reaching the top of Mount Everest is undoubtedly amazing, depending on how you measure it, the highest peak on Earth is really one of the smallest mountains in our solar system. In fact, it’s not even the tallest mountain on our planet! What is the solar system’s highest mountain, then? You may be surprised by the answer’s location, huge size, and meaning.
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The Sun’s Fourth Planet
The fact that the highest peak in the solar system is not located on Earth surprises most people. It is true that the solar system has very few other large terrestrial (or “rocky”) planets and moons large enough to support a massive mountain.
However, Olympus Mons on Mars is actually the highest peak in the solar system. This massive stratovolcano, one of a dozen enormous volcanoes on Mars, rises to a height of 16 miles, or 84,480 feet (25 kilometers), above the red planet’s surface. In contrast, Mauna Kea, the highest volcano on Earth, is just 2.6 miles (4.1 kilometers) above sea level and only 6 miles (10 kilometers) high.
Even more striking is the enormous caldera (crater) that spans Olympus Mons’ top for around 50 miles (80 kilometers). Olympus Mons’ base, on the other hand, spans 341 miles (549 kilometers), or nearly the whole length of the state of Mississippi.
Olympus Mons: Why Is It So Big?
Given that Mars is half the size of Earth by circumference, Olympus Mons is more than twice as tall as Mount Everest. Three distinct elements are thought to have contributed to Olympus Mons’ and its monster brothers’ enormous height.
First off, compared to Earth, Mars has far more frequent volcanic eruptions. While there was undoubtedly a time of severe volcanic activity on our planet in the past, Mars has experienced lengthier periods of far higher volcanic activity.
Moreover, compared to Earth, the tectonic plates on Mars move more slowly. This makes it possible for enormous mountains to grow and persist, whereas on Earth, massive mountains may be forced beneath other tectonic plates (a process known to planetologists as subduction) or otherwise impacted by tectonic activity.
Lastly, because each planet has a different mass, the gravitational attraction on Mars is only around 38% as powerful as it is on Earth. Because gravity does not draw down the magma in the same way that it does on Earth, planetary scientists believe that this may allow mountains to “grow” taller.
Together, these factors have allowed Olympus Mons to grow and persist during the billions of years that our solar system has been in existence as the largest mountain in the solar system.
The World’s Tallest Mountains
How do the tallest planets on Earth compare, given that Mars has the highest peak in the solar system?
Although the majority of people are aware that Mount Everest is the highest peak on Earth, its actual height is merely higher than mean sea level, at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). In actuality, that does not make it the world’s tallest mountain. With its elevation of 33,500 feet (10,210 meters) above the ocean level, Mauna Kea in Hawaii is often regarded as the highest peak on the planet.
To get absolutely precise, Mount Chimborazo is the highest peak that rises from Earth’s core. More than 6,800 feet (2,072 meters) separate this Ecuadorian stratovolcano from Everest (2,329 feet or 710 meters taller than Mauna Kea). This is because of the Earth’s centrifugal bulge, which results from the planet’s real small equatorial width.