A team of international researchers has revealed that our close neighbor, Venus, very much still hosts active volcanoes.
The researchers have detected hot spots that flash and fade in just a few days on the planet’s surface and they believe that they’re caused by fresh lava from recent volcanic eruptions.
It’s a well-known fact in the scientific community that Venus has been shaped by volcanic activity throughout most of its history, but new data collected by European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express spacecraft now suggests that the rivers of fire are not done with the planet. The paper was published earlier this week, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
James W. Head, a geologist at Brown Univ. and co-author of a paper describing the new research, gave a statement informing that “We were able to show strong evidence that Venus is volcanically, and thus internally, active today. This is a major finding that helps us understand the evolution of planets like our own”.
And Håkan Svedhem, Venus Express project scientist, gave a statement of his own, echoing Head by saying that scientists can now finally include Venus in the in the tiny club of volcanically active bodies in our solar system. He stresses the Venus is still active and very much changing in the present.
Looking at thermal imaging gathered by Venus Express’ monitoring camera, the experts have noticed that there are transient spikes in temperatures of several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, in several places across the neighboring planet’s surface.
The hot spots flash and fade in a matter of days, and their size ranges from 1 square kilometer (0.4 square miles) to more than 200 kilometer (77 square miles).
What convinced the researchers even further is that most of the hot spots were clustered together in a large rift zone know as Ganiki Chasma. Such rift zones are typically formed when the crust of a planet stretches due to internal forces and hot magma that rises to the surface.
James W. Head and Mikhail Ivanov, a Russian colleague, had mapped the area in the past. They knew right from the start that Ganiki Chasma is a result of volcanic activity that happened pretty recently as far as geological terms go.
What they were unable to say initially was if it formed as recently as yesterday, or if it was more like a billion years ago. They explain that the active anomalies that Venus Express found are right in the area that the researchers had mapped, and suggest ongoing volcanic activity.
The findings are of no surprise to space scientists as the Venus Express spacecraft has hinted at volcanic activity in the past as well. In 2010 it sent infrared imaging from several of the hot planet’s volcanoes, and researchers concluded that they showed fresh lava flows that were believed to be pretty young, less than 2.5 million years old.
A little earlier, between the years of 2006 and 2007, researchers noticed that Venus’ atmosphere had high amounts of sulfur dioxide, however the level decreased in the next five (5) years.
Image Source: sott.net