A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that there might be active volcanoes on Venus. The evidence comes from photos which were sent back by the Venus Express spacecraft which is ESA (European Space Agency)’s first mission exploring Venus. The photos represent hotspots around the rift zone Ganiki Chasma, which is near two volcanoes: Maat Mons and Ozza Mons.
What is interesting is the fact that the photos which were taken at a difference of a couple of days indicated changes in brightness. Researchers speculate that this might be a sign of lava flows, which indicates the presence of active volcanoes of Venus’ surface.
The lead author of the study, James W. Head from Brown University, said that the evidence they obtained is strong. Since Venus is considered to be Earth’s sister planet this discovery could enable scientists find out more even about the evolution of our planet.
Rift zones are generated when internal forces make the crust stretch. This causes magma to flow to the surface. The researchers involved in the study believe that the rift zone has resulted from a recent volcanic activity on Venus which might be continuing. This is visible on the photos sent by the Venus Express in which the red orange represents an increase and the blue purple is a decrease. The changes in the surface brightness indicate that the temperature difference is of hundred degrees Fahrenheit and the areas have different sizes, ranging from one square kilometer to more than 200 kilometers.
James W. Head together with his colleague Mikhail Ivanov mapped the Ganiki Chasma region after the US Magellan mission which took place in the 1990s and the Soviet Venera mission from the 1990. According to their work the region seems to be young but it is not known exactly how young. Data captured in 2010 from several volcanoes using infrared imaging indicates that the lava flow might be present on the surface of the planet from up to a few million years ago. In addition a few years after 2010 scientists have discovered that the sulfur dioxide present in the upper atmosphere of Venus spikes. This indicates the presence of active volcanoes on Venus since sulfur dioxide is released by volcanic activities.
Head commented about the study:
“This discovery fits nicely with the emerging picture of very recent activity in Venus’ geologic history. These remarkable findings were the result of collaborations spanning many years and many political borders.”
Image Source: NSSDCA