A team of researchers has identified a massive volcano about 1,000 miles east of Japan.
The volcano, named Tamu Massif by the scientists, has a base about 403 miles wide — about as large as the entire state of New Mexico. Not only is it the largest volcano ever identified on earth, it compares to the huge 374-mile wide Olympus Mons volcano photographed by space probes on Mars, making it one of the biggest volcanos in the known solar system, the Los Angeles Times notes.
Olympus Mons is much taller, however, rising 13 miles into the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet. Tamu Massif, but contrast, is thought to be about 13,000 feet tall, but has settled deeper into the ocean floor.
Tamu Massif currently lies about four miles deep under the Pacific Ocean. The presence of a large formation in the area was known to oceanographers for years, but only recently did it attract significant attention. Exploring geological features at that depth is expensive and technically challenging.
Researchers say Tamu Massif formed about 145 million years ago. The volcano probably never rose high enough to become an island, though it may have come close to the surface before sinking.
Other large ocean-floor formations could also turn out to have volcanic origins.