Active volcanos found on Earth’s twin planet venus and it matters
For the first time ever, scientists have discovered clear evidence of active volcanism on Venus, which is Earth’s twin planet. This discovery was made by examining archival radar images from the 1990s that were taken during NASA’s Magellan mission.
While studying the old images, researchers observed a volcanic vent that had changed shape and had grown considerably within a year.
Robert Herrick, who is a research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a member of the VERITAS team, was inspired to search for recent volcanic activity in Magellan data following NASA’s announcement of the VERITAS mission.
Although he did not anticipate being successful, he spent approximately 200 hours manually comparing images from different Magellan orbits and eventually found two images of the same region taken eight months apart that clearly showed geological changes resulting from the eruption.
What are Venus’ active volcanoes?
Volcanic activity can cause changes in the structure of vents, similar to what has been observed on Venus. The University of Alaska’s Robert Herrick and his team studied images from NASA’s Magellan space probe, which were taken in the early 1990s.
The study highlights that it was previously too time-consuming to compare digital images and discover new lava flows. Thus, scientists had not looked for feature formation in Magellan data before.
In their recent investigation, the researchers focused on a region that contains the two largest volcanoes on Venus, Ozza and Maat Mons.
Herrick discovered a change in a vent on the north side of a domed shield volcano, which is a component of the Maat Mons volcano.
He made this observation by comparing a Magellan image from mid-February 1991 with another from mid-October 1991.
37 volcanic structures on Venus
Recent evidence shows that Venus, which lacks the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, is not the geologically dormant world that scientists once thought. A 2020 study identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that were apparently active within the past 2-3 million years.
Despite being slightly smaller than Earth with a diameter of around 7,500 miles (12,000 km), Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system due to its thick atmosphere, which is primarily composed of carbon dioxide and traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect.
Earth resides in the ‘habitable zone’ around the sun, which is not too close or too far from a star to support life. Venus is located near the inner boundary of this zone, while Mars is closer to the outer edge.
Understanding why Venus and Earth ended up so different is crucial for identifying the conditions necessary to make a planet habitable, especially as we discover new solar systems around other stars, according to Herrick.
Why is this important?
Scientists have recently discovered evidence of active volcanoes on Venus, challenging the long-held belief that the planet is geologically dormant.
Scientists have discovered evidence of active volcanoes on Venus, a finding that challenges the notion that the planet is geologically dormant.
Venus, which is roughly the same size and density as Earth, has always intrigued researchers, as it went in the opposite direction of Earth in terms of habitability.
While Earth became a hospitable planet for life, Venus became a harsh, uninhabitable environment with a surface temperature of about 450°C.
By studying Venus’s volcanic activity, scientists hope to gain insights into the planet’s evolution and how it diverged from Earth’s history billions of years ago.
One theory suggests that Venus once had some form of water on its surface, although this has been the subject of debate.
As researchers continue to learn more about the planet’s volcanic activity, they hope to better understand its interior and how it has shaped Venus’s landscape and evolution over time.
The study of volcanoes, particularly active ones, can provide information on a planet’s impact on habitability.
While exploring Venus’s surface is a challenging task, given the extreme temperatures, the most reliable data so far has come from the Magellan mission that was conducted 30 years ago.
The findings from this latest study on Venus’s active volcanoes may help researchers gain a deeper understanding of the planet’s geological activity and how it differs from that of Earth.
In turn, this knowledge could help scientists better understand what conditions are necessary for making a planet hospitable to life.
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