NASA-Funded Research Shows Venus to be Geologically Active
NASA Science Highlight: Planetary Program Support
Research by Sue Smrekar, Planetary Scientist; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 2010: For the first time, the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission has detected clear signs of recent lava flows on the surface of Venus. The science results were laid over topographic data from NASA's Magellan spacecraft. Magellan radar-mapped 98 percent of the surface and collected high-resolution gravity data while orbiting Venus from 1990 to 1994.
Venus may be one of the few worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active within the last 3 million years. Scientists see compositional differences compared to the surrounding landscape in three volcanic regions. Relatively young lava flows have been identified by the way they emit infrared radiation. These observations suggest Venus is still capable of volcanic eruptions. The findings appear in the April 8 edition of the journal Science.
"The geological history of Venus has long been a mystery," said Sue Smrekar, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the paper describing these findings. "Previous spacecraft gave us hints of volcanic activity, but we didn't know how long ago that occurred. Now we have strong evidence right at the surface for recent eruptions."
Significance to Solar System Exploration:
Understanding the rate of volcanism will help scientists determine how the interior of the planet works and how gases emitted during eruptions affect climate.
Last Updated: 20 January 2014