Research: the strange signal on Venus may come from an erupting volcano

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d738298f3729aad - Research: the strange signal on Venus may come from an erupting volcano

it has long been known that Venus is full of volcanoes. But it is impossible to know from the earth whether they are still seeping lava today, because Venus’s thick and hazy atmosphere covers up everything that may happen on the ground

now, using archival observations from old orbital missions and the results of experimental work on earth, a team of scientists is proving that idunn Mons volcano, 1.5 miles high and 125 miles wide, has been active for thousands of years and may still erupt today. They don’t have to wait long to confirm their hunch. In the next decade, a small mission squadron capable of detecting surface volcanic activity will begin its journey to Venus

Justin Filiberto, director of the office of astromaterials research and exploration science (Ares) at NASA Johnson Space Center, is the co-author of the research report published in the journal planetary science last month. He said that at this point, he did not think “anyone would be surprised to find evidence of volcanic activity when we reach Venus.”

nevertheless, confirming this speculation will have a significant impact. Like the earth, Venus is thought by some scientists to have had an ocean in the past, but today it is a dry wasteland with a dense, acid filled atmosphere and a surface hot enough to melt lead. A major explanation for Venus’s hellish transformation is that the epic volcanic eruption triggered irreversible climate change. So, a close study of Venus’ volcanoes will help us better understand why the earth has not (has not) experienced similar volcanic eruptions. Moreover, although dead volcanoes provide some clues, volcanoes are easier to understand if you can observe their actions

although there is no direct evidence of active volcanic activity on Venus, there are several indirect clues. The concentration of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus is very high, which is a common volcanic gas. If the volcano still emits sulfur dioxide today, it will be more meaningful. The surface of Venus has structural fracture areas – hot spots of volcanic activity on earth – and pot like volcanic features. The shape of these features sometimes indicates that they are being transformed by potential heat. More directly, it would be strange if Venus had a volcanic death because of its size. “Venus is basically the same size as the earth,” said Lauren jozwiak, a planetary volcanologist at the Johns Hopkins University Laboratory of Applied Physics. “There is no volcanic death on the earth, so why do we expect Venus to be the same?”

Research: the strange signal on Venus may come from an erupting volcano

this new study brings together a series of evidence that the magma “heart” of idunn Mons is still “beating” today

The Venus Express orbiter in Europe orbited the planet from 2006 to 2014 and found that lava flow sediments everywhere, including idunn Mons, glowed in infrared. Venus’s corrosive atmosphere quickly swallowed up volcanic minerals, darkening their infrared light. Therefore, these intense thermal radiation are considered to represent the lava recently erupted 250000 years ago. However, recent experimental work, that is, volcanic minerals are baked under the atmospheric conditions of Venus, and their degradation rate is faster than previously thought, which means that these lavas may have erupted in the past 1000 years. Moreover, in the case of idunn Mons, the wind was damaged more than expected according to the topography of the volcano. The authors believe that the heat generated by molten rock may increase the turbulence above the volcano

jozwiak, who was not involved in the study, said it represented “really convincing case work”. However, in the end, future Venus spacecraft missions, including NASA’s Veritas and DaVinci + missions, as well as Europe’s envision probe (expected to be launched by the end of this decade), will be the objects to confirm their doubts

Veritas (Venus emissivity, radio science, InSAR, topography and spectroscopy mission) is equipped with a state-of-the-art radar system that will be able to clearly identify fresh lava. It will pass through the same area mapped by Magellan, an early radar equipped orbiter. If a lava flow suddenly appears and did not exist when Magellan visited Venus in the early 1990s, Veritas will find it. NASA’s orbiter may even find new lava flows during its orbit around the planet. Veritas’ infrared camera will also make it easy to find young lava flows that are still emitting heat

the answers to these three future missions will be revealed soon

although Veritas will study the huge patches of the planet, the European envision orbiter will explore them in detail. Its radar system will check for signs of the nearest volcano or tectonic terrain on the ground, and its infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers will look for curious chemical mixtures on land and in the sky. If a spacecraft focuses on a volcano that is spewing lava or toxic gas, or a quiet volcano whose magma is radiating heat from below the surface, it will know

Research: the strange signal on Venus may come from an erupting volcano(1)

DaVinci + (investigation of inert gas, chemistry and imaging in Venus’ deep atmosphere) will put a detector in Venus’ atmosphere to record its chemical properties when it falls to the ground and dies. With DaVinci + providing an overview of the volcanic gases present at that moment, scientists working with Veritas and envision will be able to more easily identify the peaks of these gas concentrations – indicating that recent eruptions have peaked them

for many planetary scientists, confirming the volcanic activity of Venus is only a form at this point. “If it’s not, it’s really surprising,” said Richard ghail, a planetary geologist at Royal Holloway College, University of London and chief scientist of envision. Planetary scientist Paul Byrne of Washington University in St. Louis agrees. Byrne said, “the possibility of no active volcano on Venus must be functionally zero.”

for ghail and others, the exciting thing about the future Venus mission is that they will be able to tell us how active Venus is. Is it more like the earth, with dozens of eruptions every day, or like Mars, a volcanic coma world, where huge lava waterfalls may submerge the surface every few million years? Some people suspect that Venus will erupt at its own pace; Others think its rhythm will be closer to the rhythm of our planet. These three future missions will soon reveal the answers, calming decades of volcanic speculation

Filiberto said: “I think once all these missions reach Venus, we will write a new textbook on Venus. This will change the way we think about the evolution of planets.”