Researchers have discovered blatant evidence of recent volcanic activity on Venus after examining decades-old satellite data. The research, which was reported in the journal Science, sheds light on the planet’s geological history and future in addition to showing that its surface is presently in a state of turbulence.
Venus is a hellscape by any standard, with suffocating pressures, a poisonous atmosphere, and surface temps high enough to melt lead. It appears to be a scenario taken directly from Dante’s Inferno.
It’s “my favorite planet,” says Robert Herrick, a planetary scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Venus, the nearest world to us, is actually quite comparable to Earth despite all its hostility. Herrick refers to it as the solar system’s “true sibling” because it is so similar to ours. The similarity is “driven by what’s going on in their interior,” he claims.
It is the only world with genuine mountain ranges and a wide spectrum of volcanic characteristics, aside from Earth, according to Herrick. These characteristics include hundreds or even thousands of volcanoes, volcanic fields, and waterways formed by molten rock.
Thus, it is evident that Venus is volcanically active, which accounts for its youthful-looking aspect (geologically). However, it’s unclear how busy precisely.
The interval between explosions could still be months, years, or even tens of thousands of years, according to Herrick.
So he started looking for signs of recent seismic activity in an effort to reduce that time frame. He then looked at the radar surface photos that the Magellan probe had taken in the early 1990s.
He claims that switching back and forth between various globe images while panning around and zooming in and out was simply not possible thirty years ago. However, with the advancements in computer technology and software, Herrick was able to thoroughly examine the images.
He acknowledges, “It’s a haystack hunt with no assurance there’s a pinpoint.
Herrick concentrated his investigation on the Maat Mons volcano, which bears the name of the deity of truth and justice in ancient Egypt. And after searching a region roughly the size of Australia for a few months, he discovered something.
Two parallel black-and-white photographs of the same area on the volcano’s north flank, taken eight months apart, show it clearly. Each one is 15 to 20 kilometers in diameter. At the foot, Herrick points out a pockmark. It is a vent, the location where volcanoes explode and spew lava, ash, and debris. But in the two pictures, the vent’s form is different.
The object has actually grown bigger and appears to be shallower, he claims, adding that the shape has altered. Herrick hypothesizes that the volcano exploded, creating a magma lake within the vent, in just eight months in 1991 (the same year that President George H. W. Bush proclaimed triumph over Iraq and Clarence Thomas was approved as a Supreme Court Justice).
Of course, I could have been extremely fortunate and witnessed the sole event that occurred on Venus in the previous million years, admits Herrick. The sensible conclusion, in my opinion, is that Venus, like places like Hawaii and Iceland, has relatively frequent volcanic eruptions that are comparable to those on Earth.
Venus does not experience plate tectonics like Earth does. Therefore, scientists have been attempting to understand the natural evolution of the world over the past 4.5 billion years and its potential future. Herrick and his coworker Scott Hensley believe their results will contribute to achieving this goal.
A quantum astrochemist at Bard College who wasn’t involved in the study, Clara Sousa-Silva, says it’s good to have a visible proof of Venus’s volcanic activity. But given that we had made assumptions about this, the publication of this article is not unexpected.
Sousa-Silva asserts that this confirmation of activity on Venus’ surface does, however, improve our knowledge of what to anticipate in the planet’s atmosphere.
“A planet with a lot of volcanic activity has access to these extreme pressures and temperatures below the surface that can produce molecules that are really unusual and otherwise really hard to make,” the scientist claims.
Mars has received a lot of recent notice from NASA (and the general public) as a result of NASA’s five rovers that have been planted on the barren surface of the Red Planet since 1997.
The similarities between Earth and Mars, according to Herrick, are mainly confined to surface characteristics like sand drifting around, desert environments, and traces of possibly former lakes and rivers.
But the attention tides have changed. Herrick laughs and speculates that perhaps it is coming back like bell bottoms.
That’s because NASA is presently planning two trips to Venus, which will be guided by Herrick’s discoveries. We don’t just believe it to be an active planet, he continues. We are aware of its current activity.
To create an instrument to track volcanic activity on Venus for those future trips, Herrick is collaborating with NASA. As long as the seismometer can endure the hellish world long enough to take measurements, he is fairly optimistic that it will detect something once it is deployed.