Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

A pc-generated 3-dimensional image of Maat Mons, the tallest volcano on Venus, from NASA’s Magellan mission

Just after revisiting 30-year-old information, scientists have found proof of current volcanic activity on Venus, according to a new paper published Wednesday in the journal Science.

With this new discovering, Venus joins the ranks of Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io as the only 3 planetary bodies in our solar program that have active magma volcanoes.

Researchers currently knew that Venus’ surface is dotted with at least hundreds of volcanoes, lava fields, channels carved by lava and other volcanic functions. But they weren’t confident whether or not any of these volcanoes are at present active. To assist answer that query, they turned to radar imaging information that NASA’s Magellan spacecraft had captured from 1990 to 1992. Technological advancements more than the final 30 years created it achievable for the group to analyze the old pictures in useful new strategies.

They looked closely at volcanic locations on the planet’s surface that Magellan had imaged various occasions. Even though carrying out so, they noticed that the shape of 1 volcanic vent had changed in between two radar pictures dated eight months apart. In the later image, they also spotted what appeared to be lava flowing downhill from the vent, situated on the north side of Maat Mons, the highest volcano on Venus.

Collectively, the spacecraft’s observations recommend volcanic activity on Venus at least as lately as the 1990s, which the researchers take into consideration to be “ongoing.” It is achievable that Magellan basically got fortunate with its timing, but researchers say it is far more most likely that Venus’ volcanoes are nevertheless erupting often.

“There’s no way you have a planet that large that was carrying out anything 30 years ago and stopped,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the project, to Science News’ Lisa Grossman. “It’s unquestionably nevertheless active now.”

At the really least, they can “rule out that it is a dying planet,” says lead author Robert Herrick, a planetary scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, to Science’s Paul Voosen.

This new discovering builds on previous investigation, such as a 2020 study that located what appeared to be 37 active volcanoes on Venus. Earlier projects have also identified abnormally hot regions on the planet’s surface that scientists suspect are million-year-old lava flows that haven’t had time to cool down but. Researchers have also detected upticks in sulfur dioxide in Venus’ atmosphere, which may well have come from current volcanic activity.

“It is good to have a visual confirmation of the volcanic activity on Venus,” says Clara Sousa-Silva, an astrochemist at Bard College who was not involved with the new investigation, to NPR’s Ari Daniel. “But provided that this was anything we had speculated, it is not shocking to have this paper come out.”

Illustration of Venus' surface

An artist’s rendering of Venus’ hot surface, which scientists say is dwelling to active volcanoes.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Peter Rubin

The findings could present new insights into Venus’ geological evolution more than billions of years, as nicely as assist clarify some of its uncommon atmospheric properties.

Scientists have lengthy been intrigued by Venus, which is the second-closest planet to the sun and has a surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1962, when NASA’s Mariner two cruised by, Venus became the 1st planet to be explored by spacecraft. Then, with Magellan, scientists obtained high quality radar imagery of Venus’ surface.

This cloud-covered planet continues to spark scientific interest now. NASA has two planned projects that would discover Venus, the VERITAS and DAVINCI+ missions, whilst the European Space Agency also has 1 in the performs named EnVision.

Venus is so equivalent to Earth that it is generally referred to as our twin or sister planet. At 7,500 miles in diameter, it is practically as significant as Earth. Venus also has a equivalent composition to Earth, with a rocky mantle encapsulating an iron core.

Of course, Venus and Earth are also really distinct. There’s most likely no life on the surface of Venus, thanks largely to its thick, toxic atmosphere and hot temperatures. But scientists suspect the planet may well have hosted oceans that could have supported life billions of years ago. They are not precisely confident why Venus became a “hell planet” and Earth, by comparison, remains a habitable paradise. They’re curious to know if Venus’ inhospitable landscape could someday come to be Earth’s fate, as well.

“Venus is a ‘Rosetta stone’ for reading the record books of climate adjust, the evolution of habitability and what occurs when a planet loses a lengthy period of surface oceans,” stated James Garvin, the DAVINCI+ principal investigator, in a June 2021 NASA statement about the mission.


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