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Space and Physics

Is Venus Still Erupting?

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Justine Alford

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clockMar 20 2014, 09:01 UTC
483 Is Venus Still Erupting?
ESA/AOES. Artist impression of a volcanic Venus.

Venus: second planet from the sun, and our fiery hot next door neighbor. With surface temperatures reaching a whopping 460 degrees Celsius (860 degrees Fahrenheit), it's a pretty inhospitable place. Not only that, but Venus is veiled by reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, making it's surface impossible to see from space by visible light. It's actually believed that Venus may have once possessed oceans, but that they probably boiled away as the temperature rose on the planet. 

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It's believed by scientists that volcanoes may have played a big part in Venus's history, shaping the way it is today. But evidence gathered from Europe's Venus Express orbiter suggests that volcanoes on Venus are not just ancient history, and they might still be erupting. Images were taken from the orbiter and used to construct mosaics by a team of planetary scientists led by Alexander Bazilevskiy. From this, relative surface brightness was calculated, which yielded some surprising results. 

Four bright flashes were observed in a relatively young rift zone, which were estimated to be to be up to 1500 degrees fahrenheit; way hotter than the normal surface temperature of Venus. In fact, they were observed near Venus's largest volcano called Maat Mons, which is thought to have last erupted tens of millions of years ago. Further analysis of these bright spots suggested that they could be lava flows or a volcanic hotspot. Knowledge such as this may help to further our understanding of the planet's inner composition and atmosphere. 

The team are currently scanning through more images to look for possible volcanic activity in other areas of the planet's surface. 


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