Airbus Defence and Space

Venus still active

Relatively young lava flows have been identified

The European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft has returned the clearest indication yet that Venus is still geologically active. Relatively young lava flows have been identified by the way they emit infrared radiation. The finding suggests the planet remains capable of volcanic eruptions.

It has long been recognised that there are simply not enough craters on Venus. Something is wiping the planet’s surface clean. Recent analysis shows that this is due to a gradual sequence of small volcanic eruptions. This analysis is based on data collected by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on the Airbus Defence and Space-built Venus Express spacecraft, launched in 2005.

The image shows the 200m diameter volcanic peak Idunn Mons (at 46°S, 214.5°E). The topography is derived from data obtained by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, with a vertical exaggeration of 30 times. Radar data (in brown) from Magellan has been draped on top of the topographic data. Bright areas are rough or have steep slopes. Dark areas are smooth.

The coloured overlay shows the heat patterns derived from surface brightness data collected by Venus Express. Temperature variations due to topography were removed. The brightness signals the composition of the minerals that have been changed due to lava flow. Red-orange is the warmest area and purple is the coolest. The warmest area is situated on the summit, which stands about 2.5km above the plains, and on the bright flows that originate there.

MarsExoMarsMars Express