A new study from researchers at the European Space Agency suggests that there may still be active volcanoes on the surface of Venus, the closest planet to the Earth.
Beneath Venus’s thick atmosphere, a number of mysterious volcanoes, long thought to be dormant, dot the surface. According to a report from the LA Times, a new study suggests that some of these volcanoes may not be dormant after all – some of them may even still be active.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Geophysical Review Letters, and offer new insights into Earth’s formative years. Researchers have long looked to our neighbors in the solar system for hints about how our planet formed, from searching for evidence of water on Mars to measuring Mercury’s earth-like magnetic field. Our next-door neighbor, Venus, however, is still more or less shrouded in mystery.
Venus has thick clouds of sulfuric acid floating above its surface that can block out visible light. One of the study’s authors James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University, says this is too bad because of the many similarities already known between the two planets. In terms of size, density, and position in the solar system, Venus is already the most earth-like planet in the solar system. If we can learn about Venus’s seismic activity, we might be able to better understand how Earth was formed.
Russian space probes arrived on Venus in the 70’s and 80’s and photographed familiar features like plateaus and mountain belts. Interestingly, there were very few craters to be seen on the surface. This suggested that the surface of the planet had changed recently, most likely due to seismic activity below the surface.
Almost 40 years later, scientists from the European Space Agency may have just found the first piece of evidence confirming that Venus is an active planet. The Venus Express spacecraft has been scanning the surface for bright spots that might indicate the presence of lava.
The study describes the latest findings from the ESA’s Venus mission – there were multiple bright spots spotted on the surface of Venus that indicate high temperatures, a sign of flowing lava. The lava popped up around rift zones, or places where surface plates collide, scrape, and move past each other.
The discovery of lava on Venus has many scientists eager to find out more about the similarities between Earth and our bizarre neighbor planet, Venus.