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Decades-old photos show a volcano erupting on Venus

TechScienceDecades-old photos show a volcano erupting on Venus
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Venus has an active volcano. A new analysis of decades-old images reveals the first definitive sign of a volcanic eruption on the hellish planet next door.

NASA’s Magellan spacecraft observed the Maat Mons volcano twice between 1990 and 1992. sometime in the 243 Earth days between each observation, Volcanic vent appears to have morphed From a 2.2-sq-km circle to a 4-sq-km blob. that change indicates there was an explosionThe researchers reported online March 15. Science and at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

“This world is not cool, not cool, not dead,” says planetary scientist Paul Byrne of Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the new work.

Venus is about the same size and mass as Earth, so it should have a similar amount of internal heat. And that heat must escape somehow. Scientists have long thought that Venus must be volcanically active. “We never had anything we could point to. And now we do,” Byrne says. They also believe that volcanoes on Venus can still erupt.

“There’s no way you can have a planet that big that was doing something 30 years ago and stopped,” he says. “It’s definitely still active today.”

Planetary scientist Robert Herrick spotted the change after painstakingly looking through images of Venusian regions most likely to be volcanically active. “This was a needle-in-a-haystack discovery with no guarantee the needle is present,” says Herrick of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Many features in these Magellan radar images look like they may have changed between the first observation (top) and the second (bottom). But most of those differences occurred because the spacecraft were looking in opposite directions, giving the surface different shading and illumination. The scientists were able to show that the apparent differences of a crater were due to those imaging differences (uncorrected vents). Another (the extended vent) was due to actual changes on the surface of Venus – perhaps a volcanic eruption.RR Herrick and S. Hensley/Science 2023

lots of circumstantial evidence for explosion But Vesper Is Was informed over the decades (Sn: 10/22/10; Sn: 6/19/15; Serial No: 10/18/16), But it has been difficult to tell whether a particular change was due to actual geology on the ground, or was just a mirage. Many of the reported differences are due to the different viewing angles of Magellan in successive orbits around Venus.

“Fundamentally, these images are very difficult to see,” says radar scientist Scott Hensley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It’s not that people haven’t seen [for active volcanism], People have been watching for years. ,

Still, just the vent’s change in the images wasn’t enough to convince Hensley and Herrick that they were seeing evidence for an active volcano. So, Hensley ran more than 100 computer simulations of what Matt Moons would have looked like on Magellan under different imaging conditions. “None of them ever looked like [the 4-square-kilometer blob] on the second cycle,” Hensley says. The change must be real, he concluded.

Change in volcano’s size suggests it probably didn’t erupt as explosively as Washington mount st helens did in the 1980s, says Byrne (Sn: 11/1/16, Instead, the eruption was probably more like Hawaii’s long, slow lava drainage. Kilauea volcano in 2018only bigger, he says (Sn: 1/29/19,

The discovery gives scientists an idea of ​​what to expect — and some new ideas for research — when Upcoming missions return to Venus ,Sn: 6/2/21, In the late 2020s or early 2030s, NASA plans to launch Veritas, a satellite that will map the entire planet from space, and Envision, which will take high-resolution satellite images of target areas.

“The cool thing is that this means Venus is now volcanically active. In these upcoming missions, we’re going to see things happen,” Herrick said in his March 15 talk. “We already have Both of those missions were plans to try and see new things and change over time … Now we know that’s a valuable thing.”

The work is awe-inspiring, said planetary scientist Darby Dyer of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Ma., who was not involved in the new work. “Everyone in this room will be salivating over the features we’re going to see” in images from future missions.

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