BBC Science Focus

Recently active volcanoes identified on Venus


Venus is home to at least 37 recently active volcanic structures, a study by researcher­s at the University of Maryland and the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich has found. This is the first evidence that the interior of the planet is still geological­ly active.

Previous studies have discovered evidence of a warm interior and ring-like structures known as coronae. Coronae form when plumes of hot material deep inside the planet rise through the mantle layer and crust, in a manner similar to the way that mantle plumes formed the volcanic Hawaiian Islands.

It was originally thought that they were signs of ancient activity, and that the planet had cooled enough to slow down the geological activity in the planet’s interior, hardening the crust so much that any warm material from deep inside would not be able to puncture through.

In the new study, the researcher­s created models of the thermal activity beneath the surface to create high-resolution, 3D simulation­s of coronae formation. They then used these to identify features that are present only in recently active coronae and looked for similar structures on the surface of Venus.

“This is the first time we are able to point to specific structures and say, ‘Look, this is not an ancient volcano but one that is active today, dormant perhaps, but not dead,’” explained Laurent Montési, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland. “This study significan­tly changes the view of Venus from a mostly inactive planet to one whose interior is still churning and can feed many active volcanoes.”

The active coronae on Venus are clustered together in a handful of locations, which suggests hotspot areas where the planet is most geological­ly active. This may help identify target areas where geologic instrument­s should be placed on future missions to Venus, such as Europe’s EnVision that is scheduled to launch in 2032.

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