Volcanic activity detected on the surface of Venus

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From volcanic activity detected on the surface of Venus

Maat Mons, the volcano that has shown signs of a recent eruption, lies in the black square near the planet's equator.

Direct geological evidence of recent volcanic activity has been observed for the first time on the surface of Venus.

Geophysicist Robert Herric and colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL ) associated with NASA gathered this evidence by reanalyzing radar images of the Maat Mons volcano taken more than 30 years ago, in the early 1990s, during the Magellan probe mission.

Artistic illustration of what a volcanic eruption on the surface of Venus might look like.

These images revealed that a volcanic vent had changed shape and dramatically increased in size over an eight-month period in 1991.

In a February 1991 image, the volcano's vent appears almost circular and covers an area of ​​less than 2.2 square kilometers. Its inner flanks are steep, and signs of lava flow on its outer slopes are visible, suggesting activity. In radar images taken eight months later, the same vent doubled in size and deformed. It also appears to be filled with a lava lake to the rim, note the authors of this work published in the journal Science.

Thus, the planet next to Earth would be a dynamic world with eruptions and lava flows on its surface.

The region has long been thought to be volcanically active, but there was no direct evidence of recent activity prior to our work, Robert Herrick said in a statement released by JPL.

Three-dimensional perspective of Maat Mons volcano on the surface of Venus, computer generated.

Maat Mons is a shield volcano with a diameter of 395 km characterized by eruptions producing fluid lava flows. It has a caldera (crater formed after an eruption) measuring 31 km by 28 km and has five other calderas up to 10 km in diameter.

With its chimney about 9 km high, it is the tallest volcano on Venus. By comparison, the largest known shield volcano in the Solar System, both by diameter and elevation, is Olympus Mons on the planet Mars. It has a diameter of 648 km and rises 22.5 km on average above the surrounding plains.

Artistic illustration showing the VERITAS probe in orbit around Venus.

The VERITAS orbiter mission scheduled for 2031 will study Venus from surface to core to understand how a rocky planet similar to Earth could have had such a different fate, transforming into a world covered in volcanic plains and distorted terrain hidden by a thick, hot and toxic atmosphere.

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