Exploring the Planets

Understanding Mars by Studying Earth

Lava flows on Mars are much longer and thicker than typical basalt lava flows on Earth. Smithsonian scientists are studying some of the largest lava flows on Earth to better understand what might cause these differences and what they mean for the physical processes affecting volcanic eruptions on Mars.

A large lava flow near Arsia Mons. Measurements based on shadow lengths suggest that the flow averages 100 meters (330 feet) thick.

Mars Odyssey, THEMIS
NASA/JPL/Arizona State University image

Lava Flow, Mars

A lava flow formed in 1907 on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano. The arrow on the orbital image (bottom left) points to the location near the margin of the flow where the larger photo was taken. This flow is up to 19 meters (62 feet) thick—about five times thinner than the Arsia Mons flow.

Ikonos image courtesy of Hawaii Synergy

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Volcano