Active volcano found on Venus thanks to images from more than 30 years ago
Venus appears to have volcanic activityaccording to a new research paper published in the journal ‘Science’ which provides strong evidence from radar images obtained in 1991 to answer the nagging question. about whether Earth’s sister planet currently has eruptions and lava flows.
The planet, although similar to Earth in size and mass, differs markedly in that it It has no tectonic plates. The boundaries of the moving plates on the Earth’s surface are. the main sites of volcanic activity.
New research by Professor Robert Herrick of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (USA) has revealed the. existence of a volcanic chimney of about two and a half square kilometers. which changed shape and grew for eight months in 1991.
Herrick studied images taken in the early 1990s during the first two radar imaging cycles la NASA’s Magellan space probe. “Only in the last decade or so have Magellan data become available at full resolution, tiled, and easily manipulated by a researcher with a typical personal workstation,” Herrick says.
The new research focused on an area containing. 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, therefore, are more dispersed“, he explains.
Herrick compared a Magellan image from mid-February 1991 with one from mid-October of the same year and observed a change in the chimney on the north side of a domed volcano that is part of the Maat Mons volcano.The vent had changed from being a circular formation of just under two kilometers and a half square kilometers to having an irregular shape of almost four square kilometers.
A geologically young planet
According to Herrick, the surface of Venus is geologically youngespecially compared to all other rocky bodies except Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io. “However, estimates of the frequency with which eruptions might occur on Venus have been speculative, ranging from several large eruptions a year and one such eruption every several or even tens of years.“, he points out.
Herrick compares the lack of information about Venusian volcanism to what is known about Jupiter’s moon Io and Mars. “Io is so active that, each time we have observed it, we have obtained images of multiple eruptions in progress“, he explains.
On a geologic time scale, the relatively young lava flows indicate that Mars is still volcanically active. “However,” he continues, “nothing has happened in the 45 years that we’ve been observing Mars, and most scientists would say that the surface would probably have to be observed for a few million years to have a reasonable chance of seeing a new lava flow.”
Herrick’s research adds. Venus to the small group of volcanically active bodies in our solar system.. “We can now say that Venus is currently volcanically active in the sense that there are at least a few eruptions a year,” he stresses. 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.”