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New Analysis Reveals Venus Has More Volcanic Activity Than Previously Known

New Analysis Reveals Venus Has More Volcanic Activity Than Previously Known

Venus appears to be more volcanically active than previously known, according to scientists who analyzed decades-old radar images, revealing eruptions at two new sites on the planet’s surface. Radar data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, collected between 1990 and 1992, showed large lava flows in the northern hemisphere. These findings, along with previous studies, suggest Venus’s volcanic activity is comparable to Earth’s. Advances in computing have made it easier to analyze Magellan’s data. “These findings significantly change our understanding of the degree to which Venus is volcanically active,” said planetary scientist Davide Sulcanese of d’Annunzio University, lead author of the study published in Nature Astronomy.

One site is Sif Mons, a 200-mile-wide volcano in Eistla Regio, showing a lava flow of about 12 square miles. The other is a volcanic plain in Niobe Planitia, producing about 17 square miles of rock. Both sites feature shield volcanoes, characterized by broad, gentle slopes from low-viscosity lava flows. The new rock at these locations is estimated to be 10 to 66 feet deep. Marco Mastrogiuseppe of University Sapienza noted the lava flows’ sinuous patterns at Sif Mons and their northeast extension in Niobe Planitia.

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Venus, the second planet from the sun, has a diameter of about 7,500 miles, slightly smaller than Earth. The study builds on previous findings, including a 2023 study that observed changes at a volcanic vent on Maat Mons. “Our study provides direct proof of lava flows formed during the Magellan mission period,” said Sulcanese, highlighting ongoing volcanic activity on Venus.

Studying Venus’s volcanism offers insights into its internal heat and geological processes. “It provides insights into the planet’s thermal evolution, surface renewal processes, and atmospheric interactions,” said co-author Giuseppe Mitri. Despite similarities in size, mass, and composition, Venus’s extreme conditions, with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere causing a runaway greenhouse effect, make it vastly different from Earth. Upcoming NASA and European Space Agency missions aim to understand why these sister planets have evolved so differently.