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HomeNationalNew analysis reveals dynamic volcanism on Venus MIGMG News

New analysis reveals dynamic volcanism on Venus MIGMG News

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Fresh analysis of radar images taken more than three decades ago has yielded new evidence showing that Venus, Earth’s planetary neighbor, is currently volcanically active — a dynamic world with eruptions and lava flows.

Researchers said Wednesday that radar images taken by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft showed that a volcanic vent about a mile (1.6 km) on the surface of Venus expanded and changed shape over an eight-month period in 1991. The vent is located on Maat Mons, which at about 5 miles (9 km) high is the planet’s tallest volcano and second-tallest mountain.

The February 1991 image shows the vent as a circular formation covering about one square mile (2.6 square kilometers). An October 1991 image showed the irregularly shaped vent covering about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers).

“What we can definitively demonstrate is that the vent has grown larger and appears to have gone from being conical and hundreds of meters deep in its interior to a flat, nearly filled interior,” said Robert Herrick, a research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. . and lead author of the study published in the journal Science.

“Our interpretation is that there is a new influx of magma into the chamber below the vent, and this results in the formation of a wider, irregular caldera (a large depression that forms when a volcano erupts and collapses) that still has an active lava lake in it when take the second picture,” Herrick said.

The vent is located on the north side of a larger volcanic structure just outside the main summit of Maat Mons.

“While it’s possible that valve collapse is not associated with active volcanism, on Earth this large collapse is usually associated with some kind of magmatic movement, and so we think that’s likely to be the case here,” said study co-author Scott. Hensley, a senior research scientist specializing in radar remote sensing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Venus is covered in craters, volcanoes, mountains and lava plains. Magellan imaged parts of Venus up to three times over a 24-month period from 1990 to 1992. Advances in computing capability have facilitated the analysis of this data in recent years.

The new findings suggest that there are eruptions on Venus every few months, similar to some volcanoes on Earth in places like Hawaii, the Canary Islands and Iceland, Herrick said.

This is the latest evidence that Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that is gradually reshaping Earth’s surface, is not the geologically dormant world that some scientists once thought. Another study published in 2020 identified 37 volcanic structures that were apparently active in the past 2 to 3 million years.

Venus, at about 7,500 miles (12,000 km) in diameter, is slightly smaller than Earth. Its thick atmosphere – mostly carbon dioxide – traps heat in a greenhouse effect, making Venus the hottest planet in the Solar System.

In our solar system, Earth resides comfortably in the “habitable zone” around the sun – the distance considered not too close and not too far from a star to host life, with Venus close to the inner boundary and Mars close to the outer edge.

“As we continue to discover new solar systems around other stars, understanding how Venus and Earth became so different is now important to understanding the conditions for making a habitable planet,” Herrick said.

“For example, there are many scientists who think that Venus may have been habitable for much of its history, which would make the concept of a ‘habitable zone’ at a fixed distance around a star obsolete. “Maybe distance is just one contributing factor and there are a bunch of other factors that are just as important,” Herrick added.

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