How did Olympus Mons get so big?

Olympus Mons is the highest mountain and volcano in our solar system. It measures in at 22 kilometers in height, more than double the height of Everest. This amazing mountain was formed by incredible volcanic activity over many years on Mars. Previously scientists were baffled by the height of the mountain but a recent discovery is starting to help them paint a picture of how this amazing mountain was formed.

The reason all comes down to lifespan. While volcanoes on Earth can live for a few million years before dying out, those on Mars live much longer. One volcano on Mars could produce lava for over a billion years! As lave erupts from a volcano it spreads out and cools, the more this happens the higher the volcano becomes. As this happens for over a billion years on Mars, it gives the volcano plenty of time to grow to new incredible heights.

Scientists were able to make this discovery thanks to dating some meteorites that had fallen to Earth. Previously it was thought that all of these meteorites came from the same period and were millions of years old. After carbon dating, they found that some were over a billion years old. A large piece of the jigsaw was found. 

This meant that a volcano such as Olympus Mons grew quickly in its forming period but quite slowly in the later years. In more recent years, it is believed that the volcano was growing at a rate of just over half a meter every million years. It must have grown much faster in earlier periods to reach the incredible height it now sits at. This means that Mars has once had a much more active volcanic past.

The name Olympus Mons comes from the mountain home of Greek Gods, Olympus. It was originally called Nix Olympica or Snows of Olympus but was changed in 1879 when it was discovered that it was actually a volcano.