Scientists offer proof that Venus has active volcanoes that erupt
Newly published research adds Venus to the small group of volcanically active bodies in our solar system
The Earth is full of volcanoes that sometimes erupt; however, it is believed that other planets in the solar system could have this type of active geological structures, such is the case of Venus.
Venus appears to be volcanically active, according to a new research paper that offers compelling evidence to answer the lingering question about whether Earth's sister planet currently has eruptions and lava flows.
Venus, though similar to Earth in size and mass, differs markedly in that it does not have plate tectonics. The boundaries of the moving plates of the earth's surface are the main places of volcanic activity.
New research by Professor Robert Herrick of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has revealed the existence of a nearly one-square-mile volcanic vent that changed shape and grew over eight months in 1991.
To conduct the research, Herrick studied images taken in the early 1990s during the first two imaging cycles from NASA's Magellan space probe. Until recently, comparing digital images to find new lava flows took too long, the article notes.
The new research focused on an area that contains two of the largest volcanoes on Venus, Ozza and Maat Mons.
“Ozza and Maat Mons are comparable in volume to the largest volcanoes on Earth, but have lower slopes and are therefore more spread out,” Herrick explained. Maat Mons contains the expanded vent indicating volcanic activity.
Herrick compared a Magellan image from mid-February 1991 to one from mid-October of the same year and observed a change in a vent on the north face of a domed volcano that is part of the Maat Mons volcano.
The vent had grown from a circular formation of just under 1 square mile to an irregular shape of approximately 1.5 square miles.
The later image indicates that the chimney walls were made shorter, perhaps only a few hundred meters high, and that the chimney was almost filled to the brim. The researchers speculate that a lava lake formed in the vent during the eight months between images, though whether the contents were liquid or had cooled and solidified is unknown.
Herrick's research adds Venus to the small group of volcanically active bodies in our solar system.
“Now we can say that Venus is currently volcanically active in the sense that there are at least a few eruptions a year,” he said. “ We can expect that the next missions to Venus will observe new volcanic flows that have occurred since the Magellan mission ended three decades ago, and we should see some activity taking place while the next two orbital missions collect images”, added the scientist.
Mars is also volcanically active
On a geologic time scale, the relatively young lava flows indicate that Mars is still volcanically active, Herrick said.
“However, nothing has happened in the 45 years we have been observing Mars, and most scientists would say that you would probably have to observe the surface for a few million years to have a reasonable chance of seeing a new lava flow.”, he claimed.