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A Dream of Olympus Mons

Dream of Olympus Mons

Image Title: A Dream of Olympus Mons
Source: Mars Global Surveyor


I knew that I had to create an image that showcased the massive shield volcano Olympus Mons. As luck would have it there was a pair of Mars Global Surveyor Wide Angle Camera images that had something of the look that I was searching for. Working with this pair of pictures led me naturally to an image with soft colors and an indistinct, hazy background that serves to accentuate the lines of the volcano.

The printed version of this image is 13.5 inches wide and 8.25 inches tall. In addition to the version pictured above, I have created several alternative versions that deviate more from the real thing. It is truly amazing how, with the art of digital image processing, a set of numbers can take on so many wildly diverse forms.

About Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons stands out as one of the natural wonders of the solar system. Because of the lack of plate tectonics on Mars, the hot spot that extrudes molten lava stays fixed relative to the surface. Contrast this with the Earth, where the movement of the plates results in chains of volcanoes.

Olympus Mons tops out at 27 kilometers, almost three times as tall as our own Mount Everest. More than 600 kilometers across, this volcano would more than cover the entire state of Washington, home to Mount St. Helens. The volcano's caldera itself is some 60 by 90 kilometers in diameter. A recent paper in the journal Nature suggests that Olympus Mons erupted as recently as 2.4 million years ago, a heartbeat in the age of a planet.

Olympus Mons was originally known as Nix Olympica, the "Snows of Olympus". It was named after Olympus, the home of the Greek Gods, by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1879. Through a telescope, Olympus Mons appears as a white feature on the face of Mars because of the presence of orographic clouds on its broad slopes.

Source Image Background

The source images, R0801953 and R0801954, were taken by the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Observer Camera Wide Angle camera (MGS MOC WA). The view presented is that of an observer looking approximately west towards the volcano.

Image Processing and Olympus Mons

All processing of this image, aside from converting the two raw PDS data files into GIFs, was done using Adobe Photoshop. To begin I merged the two raw MGS Wide Angle camera image files of Olympus Mons. Following steps to remove noise and stretch the histogram, I then undertook to find a pleasing color that, while appropriate for Martian geology, was not meant to be an accurate representation of the true colors of Olympus Mons. This is especially true with respect to the colors seen in the background, located along the top of the image.

Wallpaper Download

I have created a low resolution, cropped version of A Dream of Olympus Mons for use as a desktop wallpaper. I am making this wallpaper available for your personal use only. It is not to be modified or redistributed in any form by any means. All rights are retained by the artist.

A Dream of Olympus Mons, 1024 x 768 Wallpaper Image by Jim Plaxco

2005-2023 Jim Plaxco,