Officially known as Aeolis Mons, Mount Sharp is a mountain formation on the planet Mars at around 5.08° South and 137.85° East. After its discovery in the 1970s, the mountain remained unnamed for close to forty years when it was given several names such as Gale crater mound. In 2012, NASA informally re-named the mountain to Mount Sharp in recognition of Robert P. Sharp, an American geologist. The naming was informal because the naming rules dictate that features such as the mountain cannot be officially named after people. The official name, Aeolis Mons, is a name that originated from the Izmir region located in Turkey.
The photographs available of Mount Sharp show that it is a rise of sedimentary rocks perched on top of the Gale Crater. The mountain forms the central peak and rises up to a height of 18,000 feet higher than the floor on the northern side of the crater. Compared to the southern floor of the crater, the mountain rises to a height of around 15,000 feet. The formation of the mountain is believed to have occurred around 2 billion years ago. The exact process is still being debated by scientists with several theories already in place. However, NASA issued a statement stating that a lake was responsible for the deposition of the lower sediments.
Comparison With Mountains In The Solar System
As stated earlier, Aeolis Mons is roughly 18,000 ft in height. Mount Sharp is roughly the same height as the grandest lunar mountain which is known as Mons Huygens. The Mons Hadley that was visited by Apollo 15 is dwarfed in size by Mount Sharp. However, compared to the tallest mountain in the solar system that is known to man, Mount Sharp is barely more than a bump. The tallest mountain is in the asteroid Vesta and has heights of approximately 72,000 feet or 14 miles. The closest challenger to this mountain’s height is Olympus Mons which is located on Mars with heights of approximately 13.6 miles.
On earth, the tallest mountain, Mount Everest, has a height of 29,000 feet while Mount Kilimanjaro rises to altitudes of 19,000 feet above sea level. However, from base to peak, these two giants on earth both have heights of 15,000 feet. Both of these mountains are shorter than Mount Sharp. The only mountain on earth that comes close to Mount Sharps’ altitude is Mount McKinley, also called Mount Denali, with elevations of about 18,000 feet from the base to the peak. Others include Mount Fuji (12,000 feet), Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco (16,000 feet), and a few others.
The exploration into the Gale Crater was done by the Curiosity Rover. The explorations showed that there was a lake in the crater that deposited sediments. However, all of the water drained out long ago. Scientists believe that the lake used to be a habitat for several life forms including plenty of different microbes. Recent photographs by the Curiosity rover, on January 2018, on the Vera Rubin Ridge, show the mountain in the background. Currently, the rover is attempting to provide data on the base sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp.