Scientists provide evidence that Venus is volcanically active


Venus

Credit: NASA

Venus appears to be volcanically active, according to a new paper that provides strong clues to answer the long-standing question of whether sister planet Earth currently has eruptions and lava flows.


Venus, though similar to Earth in size and mass, differs markedly in that it does not have plate tectonics. The boundaries of Earth’s moving plates are the primary sites of volcanic activity.

New research by University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Geophysics Professor Robert Herrick reveals an area of ​​roughly a square mile. Volcanic vent which changed in shape and grew over a period of eight months in 1991. Changes on this scale on Earth are linked to volcanic activity, both through eruption In the vent or movement of magma below the vent causing the vent walls to collapse and the vent to expand.

The research was published today (March 15) in the journal Sciences.

Herrick studied images taken in the early 1990s during the first two imaging sessions of NASA’s Magellan space probe. Until recently, the comparison digital photos The search for new lava flows has taken a long time, the paper notes. As a result, a few scientists have delved into the Magellan data to form the features.

“Only in the past decade or so has Magellan data been available at full resolution, distributed and easily manipulated by an investigator with a typical personal workstation,” Herrick said.

Scientists provide evidence that Venus is volcanically active

Elevation data for the Maat and Usa Mons region on the surface of Venus are shown on the left, with the study area indicated by the black box. On the right are before (a) and after (b) Magellan’s observations of an enlarged vent on Maat Mons, with possible new lava flows after an eruptive event. Credit: Robert Herrick/UAF

The new research focused on a region containing two of Venus’ largest volcanoes, Oza and Maat Mons.

“Uzza and Maat Mons are comparable in size to Earth’s largest volcanoes, but they have lower slopes and therefore are more spread out,” Herrick said.

Maat Mons contains an enlarged vent that indicates volcanic activity.

Herrick compared the image of Magellan from mid-February 1991 with the mid-October 1991 image and noted a change in the vent on the north side of the domed shield volcano which is part of the Maat Mons volcano.

The opening has grown from a circular formation of just under 1 square mile to an irregular shape of about 1.5 square miles.

The later image indicates that the walls of the vent became shorter, perhaps only a few hundred feet high, and that the vent was filled almost to its rim. The researchers speculate that a lava lake formed in the vent during the eight months between images, though it is not known whether the contents were liquid or cooled and solidified.

Scientists provide evidence that Venus is volcanically active

Maat Mons is shown in this computer generated 3D perspective of the surface of Venus. The viewpoint is located 634 kilometers (393 miles) north of Maat Mons at an elevation of 3 kilometers (2 miles) above the terrain. Lava flows stretch for hundreds of kilometers across the rift plains shown in the foreground, to the base of Maat Mons. The view is to the south with the Maat Mons volcano in the center of the image visible on the horizon and rising approximately 5 kilometers (3 miles) above the surrounding terrain. Ma’at Mons is located at approximately 0.9 degrees north latitude, 194.5 degrees east longitude with a peak rising to 8 kilometers (5 miles) above the mesosurface. Maat Monis was named after the Egyptian goddess of truth and justice. Synthetic aperture radar data from Magellan are combined with radar altimetry to develop a 3D map of the surface. The vertical scale in this perspective has been magnified 10 times. The computer-cast rays intersect the surface to form a three-dimensional perspective view. Simulated colors and a digital elevation map developed by the USGS were used to enhance the small-scale structure. The simulated figures are based on color images recorded by the Soviet spacecraft Venera 13 and 14. The image was produced by the Solar System Visualization Project and the Magellan Science team at JPL’s Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory and is a single frame from a video released at the press conference. April 22, 1992. Credit: NASA/JPL

The researchers offer one caveat: Non-volcanic collapse of the vent walls caused by the earthquake may have caused the expansion. But they observed that the collapse of vents of this magnitude on Earth’s volcanoes was always accompanied by nearby eruptions; Magma is withdrawing from the bottom of the vent because it is going elsewhere.

Geologically, the surface of Venus is small, Herrick said, especially compared to all other rocky bodies except Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io.

“However, estimates of how often eruptions might occur on Venus have been speculative, and range from several large eruptions every year to one such eruption every several or even decades,” he said.

Herrick compares the lack of information about volcanic activity on Venus with what is known about Jupiter’s moon Io and Mars.

“Io is so active that many continuous eruptions are filmed every time we observe it,” he said.

On a geological time scale, it is relatively small lava flow It indicates that Mars is still volcanically active, Herrick said.

Scientists provide evidence that Venus is volcanically active

This computer-simulated annotated global map of the surface of Venus was compiled from data from NASA’s Magellan and Pioneer Venus Orbiter missions. Maat Mons, a volcano that has recently shown signs of eruption, is located within the black square near the planet’s equator. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“However, nothing has happened in the 45 years that we’ve been observing Mars, and most scientists would say you’d probably need to observe the surface for a few million years to have a reasonable chance of seeing new lava flows,” he said.

Herrick’s research adds Venus to a small group of volcanically active objects in our solar system.

“We can now say that Venus is currently volcanically active, meaning that there are at least some volcanic eruptions every year,” he said. “We can expect the upcoming Venus missions to monitor new volcanic flows that have occurred since the Magellan mission ended three decades ago, and we should see some activity occur as the two prospective orbital missions collect images.”

Co-author Scott Hensley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted the modeling research.

more information:
Robert R. Herrick, Surface changes observed on a Venusian volcano during the Magellan mission, Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.abm7735. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm7735

the quote: Scientists provide evidence that Venus is volcanically active (2023, March 15) Retrieved March 16, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-scientists-evidence-venus-volcanically.html

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