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Recent eruptions on Venus (no April Fools this time)

April 8, 2010, 12:24 PM


Idunn Mons on Venus with recent emissivity data from the Venus Express overlaid on the topography, suggesting recent lava flows.

NASA released images today that suggest that the surface of Venus has experienced some relatively recent volcanic events (geologically speaking). By examining the surface in infrared, the Venus Express, launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) has found that three spots on the surface exhibit signs of recent volcanism. The long-and-short of the research lead by Dr. Sue Smrekar of JPL is that a number of Venutian lava flows (shown above on Idunn Mons) show less evidence of weathering at the surface of Venus, based on their composition - suggesting that these flows may be geologically young. In the press release, the estimate for the age of the flows is as "recent as 2,500,000 years", which to many people seems old, but geologically, those are young flows, especially on a planet where the current level of geologic activity is unclear. However, the JPL team goes on to suggest that these flows could be even younger than 2.5 million years and might suggest current activity on the second planet. The surface of Venus is almost entirely relatively free of impact crater, which suggests to some that the surface must be young, but as of yet, we have no direct evidence of current evidence of eruptions. All the activity on Venus would appear to be basaltic based on data collected by Russian Venera landers, although some features look like rhyolite domes as well (their origin is unknown). However, there has been some tantalizing hints of a potentially active neighbor.

 

Recent eruptions on Venus (...

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