Scientists Say They’ve Confirmed That Venus Does Have Active Volcanoes

The recent study puts an end to decades of speculation. Scientists Say They’ve Confirmed That Venus Does Have Active Volcanoes NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Volcanic eruptions are among the most intense natural events that occur on our planet — but elsewhere in our solar system, these powerful explosions can be even more impressive.

Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, is home to a massive volcano that erupts about every 500 days. The Planetary Science Institute’s Julie Rathburn described it as “a giant lava lake — yes, a lake of liquid magma — about [125 miles] across.”

But when it comes to a much closer cosmic neighbor, there was always speculation about volcanoes with no tangible evidence … until now.

Venusian volcanoes

Since Venus is often described as Earth’s due to its similar size and structure, scientists have long assumed that it probably had active volcanoes. Nevertheless, that planet’s thick atmosphere makes it hard to get a good glimpse of what’s actually going on on its surface.

This week, however, a report published in the “Science” journal revealed what University of Alaska geophysicist Robert Herrick found in his recent study.

Collecting evidence

More than 30 years ago, NASA’s Magellan mission captured some radar images revealing that Venus is pockmarked with evidence of volcanic flows.

Since then, evidence of temperature changes and other details gathered from the planet pointed to the likelihood that at least some of the volcanoes were still spewing lava, but Herrick’s work seems to have put all remaining doubts to rest.

After meticulously comparing images of the same areas captured by Magellan between 1990 and 1994, he and his team of researchers are convinced that the changes they noted confirm that there were active eruptions during this period.

Looking ahead

If that’s not convincing enough for you, just stay tuned. NASA and the European Space Agency are planning new missions to Venus that should send back much more detailed images when they reach its orbit.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 18th, 2023
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