Venus volcanoes might still be active

Astronomers have found evidence of volcanic lava flows on the surface of Venus, suggesting the planet may still be volcanically active.

The discovery of volcanic lava flow in two different regions of Venus is published in Nature Astronomy. It supports previous evidence that Venus is still geologically active, and also suggests that volcanic activity may be greater and more widespread than previously thought.

The difficulty in confirming volcanism on Venus is the planet’s dense atmosphere which obscures much of what is happening on the surface.

But scientists were able to get a picture of activity by comparing images from when the Magellan spacecraft conducted global radar mapping in 1990 and 1992, with new images from 2023.

What they discovered were shield volcanoes and widespread lava flows. The mapping also revealed unusual structures called pancake domes and “tick-like” structures, both of which do not appear on Earth.

Astronomers from Italy’s D’Annunzio University of Chieti say: “Recent evidence of changes in the surface morphology of a volcanic vent has been interpreted as a potential indication of ongoing volcanic activity.” This is based on new data taken by Magellan which appears to show activity coming from one volcanic vent.

“We found variations in the radar backscatter from different volcanic-related flow features on the western flank of Sif Mons and in western Niobe Planitia,” the authors write. “We suggest that these changes are most reasonably explained as evidence of new lava flows related to volcanic activities that took place during the Magellan spacecraft’s mapping mission.”

“This study provides further evidence in support of a currently geologically active Venus,” they add.

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