Venus’ Volcanoes: Important Facts

Venus and Earth are often compared as sister planets, having similarities in size, mass, density, and volume. Now, a recent study has shown that Venus might share another feature with Earth – active volcanoes. Using decades-old radar images from the Magellan mission, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology have found evidence of volcanic activity on Venus.

Volcanic Activity on Venus

The study showed that a 2.2 square kilometre volcanic vent on Venus had changed shape in eight months, indicating volcanic activity. A volcanic vent is a spot through which molten rock erupts. Comparison showed that the vent almost doubled in size to a 4 sq km blob. The vent is located in a region where volcanic activity was thought to be most likely. This region is associated with Maat Mons, Venus’ second-highest volcano, situated in the Atla Regio, a vast highland region near Venus’ equator. The researchers speculated that Venus is less volcanically active than Jupiter’s moon Io, which has over 100 active spots. However, the finding hints at the possibility of volcanic activity on Venus.

Magellan Mission

The Magellan mission was launched by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in May 1989 and operated until October 1994. It used radar imaging to take images of Venus’ surface from different orbits. A few locations, including those suspected to have volcanic activity, were observed two or three times over two years. Roughly 42 per cent of the global surface area was imaged two or more times, according to the researchers.

Three missions are being planned to Venus, including NASA’s VERITAS and DAVINCI and the European Space Agency’s EnVision, which are expected to observe our neighbour in the 2030s. The Indian Space Research Organisation is also working on Shukrayaan-1 to study Venus. These missions are expected to provide further insight into the enigmatic world of Venus.

Implications of the Findings

The study’s finding suggests that Venus might have active volcanoes, which could have implications for understanding the planet’s geological history and characteristics. It could also shed light on the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Venus. Recently, a study showed that Venus might have microbial life in its atmosphere.




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