June 16, 2024

Volcanic Activity on Venus – Earth’s Evil Twin – Revealed in NASA’s Magellan Data

This computer-generated 3D design of Venus surface area shows the summit of Maat Mons, the volcano that is showing signs of activity. A new research study found one of Maat Mons vents ended up being enlarged and altered shape over an eight-month duration in 1991, showing an eruptive event occurred. Credit: NASA/JPL
In an initially, researchers have actually seen direct proof of active volcanism in the worlds twin, setting the stage for the agencys VERITAS objective to examine.
Direct geological evidence of recent volcanic activity has been observed on the surface of Venus for the very first time. Scientists made the discovery after poring over archival radar pictures of Venus taken more than 30 years ago, in the 1990s, by NASAs Magellan objective. The images exposed a volcanic vent altering shape and increasing substantially in size in less than a year.
Venus is sometimes called Earths “evil twin” since regardless of being comparable in size and composition to Earth, its surface area is incredibly hostile, with a thick environment of co2 and clouds of sulfuric acid. The extreme greenhouse effect on Venus has actually caused its surface area temperature level to soar to over 900 degrees Fahrenheit (475 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead. On the other hand, Earth has a much milder environment and is a lot more congenial to life as we understand it. Therefore, Venus is typically seen as Earths “evil twin” since it provides a stark contrast to our planets fairly benign conditions.

Scientists made the discovery after poring over archival radar images of Venus taken more than 30 years back, in the 1990s, by NASAs Magellan objective. Maat Mons is displayed in this computer-generated, three-dimensional perspective of the surface area of Venus. The geological changes Herrick discovered taken place in Atla Regio, a huge highland region near Venus equator that hosts 2 of the worlds largest volcanoes, Ozza Mons and Maat Mons. Altitude information for the Maat and Ozza Mons region on the Venus surface is revealed at left, with the location of study shown by the black box. In 2021, NASA picked the VERITAS and DAVINCI missions as their next endeavors to Venus under the Discovery Program.

Led by the agencys Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, VERITAS– short for Venus Emissivity, Radio science, Spectroscopy, topography, and insar– will launch within a decade. The orbiter will study Venus from surface area to core to understand how a rocky world about the very same size as Earth took an extremely various course, developing into a world covered in volcanic plains and warped surface hidden beneath a thick, hot, poisonous environment.
This artists idea shows the proposed VERITAS spacecraft using its radar to produce high-resolution maps of Venus geologic and topographic features. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
” NASAs selection of the VERITAS objective motivated me to search for recent volcanic activity in Magellan information,” said Robert Herrick, a research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and member of the VERITAS science team, who led the search of the archival data. “I didnt really expect to be effective, however after about 200 hours of by hand comparing the images of various Magellan orbits, I saw 2 pictures of the very same area taken eight months apart showing telltale geological changes triggered by an eruption.”
The search and its conclusions are described in a new research study published in the journal Science. Herrick likewise provided the findings at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in the Woodlands, Texas, on March 15.
Maat Mons is shown in this computer-generated, three-dimensional perspective of the surface area of Venus. The viewpoint lies 634 kilometers (393 miles) north of Maat Mons at an elevation of 3 kilometers (2 miles) above the terrain. Lava flows extend for hundreds of kilometers throughout the fractured plains displayed in the foreground, to the base of Maat Mons. NASA Magellan mission artificial aperture radar information is integrated with radar altimetry to develop a three-dimensional map of the surface area. The vertical scale in this viewpoint has been exaggerated 10 times. Credit: NASA/JPL
Designing a Volcano
The geological changes Herrick found happened in Atla Regio, a vast highland region near Venus equator that hosts 2 of the planets largest volcanoes, Ozza Mons and Maat Mons. The area has long been believed to be volcanically active, but there was no direct proof of recent activity. While scrutinizing Magellan radar images, Herrick recognized a volcanic vent associated with Maat Mons that changed substantially between February and October 1991.
In the February image, the vent appeared almost circular, covering an area of less than 1 square mile (2.2 square kilometers). It had steep interior sides and revealed indications of drained pipes lava down its outside slopes, elements that hinted at activity. In radar images caught 8 months later on, the same vent had actually doubled in size and become misshapen. It also seemed filled to the rim with a lava lake.
Altitude data for the Maat and Ozza Mons region on the Venus surface is shown at left, with the area of research study suggested by the black box. At right are the in the past (A) and after (B) Magellan observations of the broadened vent on Maat Mons, with possible brand-new lava streams after an eruptive event. Credit: Robert Herrick/UAF
However since the 2 observations were from opposite viewing angles, they had different point of views, which made them challenging to compare. The low resolution of the three-decade-old information only made the work more complex.
Herrick partnered with JPLs Scott Hensley, the project scientist for VERITAS and a specialist in examining radar data like Magellans. The two researchers developed computer system designs of the vent in different setups to test different geological-event situations, such as landslides. From those models, they concluded that only an eruption could have caused the modification.
” Only a couple of the simulations matched the imagery, and the most likely scenario is that volcanic activity occurred on Venus surface area during Magellans mission,” said Hensley. “While this is just one data point for an entire world, it validates there is contemporary geological activity.”
The scientists liken the size of the lava flow generated by the Maat Mons activity to the 2018 Kilauea eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii.
This annotated, computer-simulated global map of Venus surface is put together from data from NASAs Magellan and Pioneer Venus Orbiter missions. Maat Mons, the volcano that has actually displayed signs of a current eruption, is within the black square near the worlds equator. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Magellans Legacy
Herrick, Hensley, and the rest of the VERITAS group aspire to see how the missions suite of sophisticated science instruments and high-resolution information will complement Magellans remarkable chest of radar images, which changed humanitys knowledge of Venus.
” Venus is an enigmatic world, and Magellan teased many possibilities,” stated Jennifer Whitten, associate deputy principal investigator of VERITAS at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Now that were really sure the planet experienced a volcanic eruption only 30 years back, this is a little sneak peek for the extraordinary discoveries VERITAS will make.”
VERITAS will use state-of-the-art synthetic aperture radar to develop 3D global maps and a near-infrared spectrometer to figure out what the surface area is made of. The spacecraft will likewise measure the worlds gravitational field to figure out the structure of Venus interior. Together, the instruments will provide ideas about the worlds past and present geologic procedures.
And whereas Magellans information was originally troublesome to study– Herrick said that in the 1990s they count on boxes of CDs of Venus information that were put together by NASA and provided in the mail– VERITAS information will be available online to the science neighborhood. That will make it possible for researchers to use advanced strategies, such as maker knowing, to evaluate the world and assistance reveal its innermost tricks.
Those studies will be complemented by EnVision, an ESA (European Space Agency) objective to Venus slated for launch in the early 2030s. The spacecraft will carry its own synthetic aperture radar (called VenSAR), which is being established at JPL, along with a spectrometer comparable to the one VERITAS will carry. Both Hensley and Herrick are essential members of the VenSAR science team.
Referral: “Surface modifications observed on a Venusian volcano during the Magellan mission” by Robert R. Herrick and Scott Hensley, 15 March 2023, Science.DOI: 10.1126/ science.abm7735.
More About the Mission.
In 2021, NASA selected the VERITAS and DAVINCI objectives as their next endeavors to Venus under the Discovery Program. VERITAS has worked together with numerous companies, consisting of Lockheed Martin Space, the Italian Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center, and Frances Centre National dÉtudes Spatiales. The Planetary Missions Program Office at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program for NASAs Science Mission Directorates Planetary Science Division in Washington.