Scientists Find Evidence Of Recent Volcanic Activity On Venus

(Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Gretchen Clayson Contributor
Font Size:

Scientists studying archival images from NASA’s 1989 Magellan mission have discovered evidence that a 5-mile-high volcano on Earth’s sister planet Venus was showing activity in 1991.

Magellan, the first spacecraft to map the surface of Venus, revealed that the planet was littered with volcanos though scientists could not determine at the time whether any of them were active, LiveScience reported. After a new analysis of the 30-year-old data collected from the mission, scientists have been able to determine the presence of a volcanic vent near the planet’s equator, “swelling” with lava, the outlet stated.

The discovery comes as NASA makes plans to launch a new mission to the planet, dubbed VERITAS (Venus Emissivity Radio science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy), in order to better understand “how a rocky planet about the same size as Earth took a very different path, developing into a world covered in volcanic plains and deformed terrain hidden beneath a thick, hot, toxic atmosphere,” a release from NASA stated. (RELATED: Scientists Find Another Planet Once Had An Ocean)

“NASA’s selection of the VERITAS mission inspired me to look for recent volcanic activity in Magellan data,” Robert Herrick, a research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and member of the VERITAS team, said in the release.

“I didn’t really expect to be successful, but after about 200 hours of manually comparing the images of different Magellan orbits, I saw two images of the same region taken eight months apart exhibiting telltale geological changes caused by an eruption,” Herrick continued.

The VERITAS mission, which is expected to launch in the next decade, is being eagerly anticipated by Herrick and the rest of the VERITAS team, who are excited to see what more will be discovered about the planet when it is analyzed by more advanced equipment, the release continued.