Friday, 17 January 2020

Is Venus Active? (Volcanically)

Is Venus Active? (Volcanically)

Not much is known about Earth's nearest planetary neighbour, Venus. It has a reflective cloud cover,over a 96% CO2 atmosphere, which leads to surface temperatures of about 500oC. A few Russian missions to the planet survived long enough to determine that the surface rock was of basaltic composition.

The atmosphere is transparent to radar waves and it is found to be a flat place with few impact craters but many volcanic craters.

Volcanic ‘pancake’ domes on the surface of Venus, about 65 km wide and 1 km high, imaged by orbital radar carried by NASA’s Magellan Mission.

THIS ARTICLE describes an ingenious method of determining if Venus is currently (or recently) active volcanically. In laboratory experiments they determined what would happen to olivine in Venus's atmosphere. Fresh olivine emits more radiation than olivine tarnished in Venus's atmosphere.

A carbon dioxide atmosphere does let some radiation through at a few spectral windows; windows in which olivine emits its radiation. Using this we can see "hot spots" which indicate fresh olivine - and given Venus's atmosphere, olivine does not stay fresh for long!

Colour-coded image of night-time thermal emissivity over Venus’s southern hemisphere as sensed by VIRTIS on Venus Express (Credit: M. Gilmore 2017, Space Sci. Rev. DOI 10.1007/s11214-017-0370-8; Fig. 3)

So, does Venus have active volcanoes - very possibly!

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