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Scientists think they spotted active volcanoes on Venus

Published Jan 6th, 2020 12:46PM EST
venus volcanoes
Image: NASA

Our Solar System is filled with interesting worlds that mankind has yet to fully explore. Venus, which is closer to the Sun than Earth but not as close as the steamy Mercury, hasn’t been studied in the same way as some other planets in our system, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.

Now, a new study reveals something about Venus that many scientists have wondered: whether or not the planet has active volcanoes. The research, which was carried out by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), was published in a new paper in Science Advances.

Scientists have known that Venus has a history of volcanism, but just how far back it stretches and whether there are still active volcanoes on its surface has remained a mystery worth probing. That’s just what scientists have now done, and the results suggest that Venus is most definitely still volcanically active.

Using data from the Venus Express spacecraft, scientists have been able to analyze the lava flows and determine how fresh lava reacts once it is exposed on the planet’s surface. What the team discovered is that not only are the existing lava flows on the planet’s surface not particularly ancient, but that some of them are just years old.

“This active volcanism is consistent with episodic spikes of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere measured by both the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and the Venus Express, which could have been produced by the same eruption that formed the young lava flows described,” the paper explains.

Humans aren’t ready to go exploring Venus on foot any time soon. The planet’s surface reaches temperatures of well over 800 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s not exactly a nice vacation destination. Still, by learning more about the planet, we can better understand our own world, as well as others we may spot far off in space.