Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sizing Up Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons is the largest known volcano and mountain in the solar system. It reaches 27 kilometers above mean surface level (around 88,600 feet) and is about 550 kilometers in width. What would it look like to fly near this enormous thing? Tonight I downloaded from Orbit Hangar a newly posted Orbiter add-on by "ark," intending to have a look. This "Smooth Transition Olympus Mons" is a textured 3D object that blends nicely with Orbiter's normal flat Mars texture (all Orbiter default planetary textures are smooth, which doesn't matter much as long as you are a few hundred kilometers up).

From Olympus Base, you can now see Olympus Mons low and wide on the horizon. It rises with such a gentle overall slope that you have to fly around and above it to get a sense of its real size. In the pictures here, you can see the steep cliffs and the giant caldera of the volcano. It's a pretty nice effect.

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