Two years after the University of Houston research team initially examined the Tamu Massif, the world's largest volcano, they are back to unlocking more of its mysteries, according to National Geographic. After spending 36 days in the Pacific Ocean, they have begun creating 3-D maps of the underwater volcano and will now analyze and refine the data in order to understand how it was formed.
Using sonar and magnetometers, the team mapped more than one million square kilometers of the ocean floor where the mountain is located, according to the Huffington Post.
The team now says that the western edge of the volcano might be a separate mountain that formed in a different time period than the Tamu Massif, which would explain many of the differences between the western part of the mountain and the central body.
"We're looking at something that's in between a mid-ocean ridge and a simple conical volcano," said William Sager, who is heading the analysis on the massive mountain. "If you were standing on this thing, you would have a difficult time telling which way was downhill."
The team's analysis also revealed that the shapeless form of the main mountain could indicate a plume of hot rock rising from within the Earth up through the mantle, according to Scientific American.
"The secrets revealed will be ongoing but worth the wait as we begin to understand how such a massive volcano can form the way it did and what it means to us in respect to the formation of the planet we call home," said Suraida Nanez James, a member of the research team.