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Venus Still Alive Geologically, Volcanoes Erupt On The Planet?

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:11 AM EDT
Mt Sinabung Eruptions
Did volcanoes on Venus look like this? Image used for representation only.
(Photo : Ulet Ifansasti / Stringer / Getty Images)

Volcanic activity took place on Venus in the recent past and it may be still be occurring on the planet today, according to a new research that takes a deeper look at a recent eruption of volcano. A detailed observation of the Idunn Mons volcano on the planet indicates that this hotspot area, which radiates high levels of infrared light in comparison to the surrounding area, has had lava flowing through it recently and the region is still warm.

The Idunn Mons volcano is located in the southwestern hemisphere of Venus and rises 1.6 miles above the surrounding plains. It was first identified as a hotspot in 2010 by European Space Agency's (ESA) Venus Express probe with the help of the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instrument. When viewed with the VIRTIS, most of the surface on Venus appears cool which indicates those areas haven't changed geologically over a period of millions of years.

The scientists who first studied the Idunn Mons hotspot calculated that the region's age could be less than 2.5 million years. However, the thick clouds that surround Venus came in the way of the Venus Express from getting a closer look at the volcano and lava flows.

The new research for lava flows on Idunn Mons used radar data collected by NASA's Magellan probe in the early 1990s. The researching team created a new numerical model to mimic lava flows on the mountain and its eastern flanks, which was then compared to the Magellan data.  

"Venus is a planet which has always been considered Earth's twin sister, but its cloud cover still hides a lot of secrets," said Piero D'Incecco, researching team member who is from the German Aerospace Center. "According to our modeling, the flank lava flows are the ones responsible for this [hot]spot, which is particularly important because this is the first time we can map, with such a high resolution, lava flows from a volcanic structure which is believed to be recently or still active on a terrestrial body other than Earth."

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