The volcanic peak Idunn Mons in the Imdr Regio area of Venus as observed by ESA’s Venus Express Orbiter in 2010. The colours, overlayed on topographic data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, show heat patterns that indicate recent lave flows. More recent research suggests the planet may still be volcanically active. Image: ESA/NASA
The European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter observed heat patterns on the slopes of a Venusian volcano that indicated relatively recent lava flows. But “relatively recent” in this case, based on data from the spacecraft’s Infrared and Visible Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, meant anytime between now and 2.5 million years ago.
New research, based on a laboratory analysis, indicates eruptions may, in fact, be happening today, making Venus the only other planet in the solar system with truly recent volcanism.
“If Venus is indeed active today, it would make a great place to visit to better understand the interiors of planets,” said Justin Filiberto, the study’s lead author and a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. “For example, we could study how planets cool and why the Earth and Venus have active volcanism, but Mars does not. Future missions should be able ...