Researchers using mathematical models say the surface of Venus is likely dotted with active volcanoes. According to the models, these volcanoes (pinpointed below) are due to Venus having a churning interior. If these models are accurate, and Venus does have current volcanic activity, our conception of the planet will change forever.
In a recent study published in the journal, Nature Geoscience, the researchers behind the models explained how they were used to create 3D simulations of coronae formation on Venus’ surface. Coronae are surface features of Venus that are thought to be caused by rising, hot plumes in the planet’s mantle.
The plumes push Venus’ crust upwards into a dome shape, which then collapses at its center. This process results in crown-shaped structures that look somewhat like impact craters. Note that coronae can either have dome-shaped or bowl-shaped interiors. The Fotla Corona below has a dome in the middle and is almost 100 miles wide.
“The improved degree of realism in these models over previous studies makes it possible to identify several stages in corona evolution….” Laurent Montési said in a University of Maryland news post. Montési, a professor at UMD and co-author of the paper, added that they’ve identified 37 very recently active coronae.
The authors ran their simulations, then compared them to Venus’ surface to determine what processes caused the coronae to form. Astronomer Phil Plait, covering the study for Syfy Wire, writes that the researchers used physical models of Venus’ mantle, crust, and plumes. They then applied the laws of physics to see what would happen over time.
6/ So Venus isn't dead. This gets added to the other bits of evidence that volcanism is still happening on Venus, too (links in the article in the OP). F'rexample, Idunn Mons is a volcano with a hot top, so maybe it has magma under there. pic.twitter.com/RlTcGUL86q— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) July 22, 2020
Plait notes that by varying the model’s inputs, the researchers looked for which models best represented Venus’ surface. And, as Plait says, it does seem that the researchers’ models were able to replicate a lot of the “baffling” coronae seen on Venus.
Venus having a churning interior would also help explain why the planet has a “younger surface” relative to planets like Mars and Mercury. No features on Venus’ surface are older than about 500 to 700 million years old, which begs explanation. And it could be that these mantle plumes completely repaved the surface of the planet around that time.
“This is the first time we are able to point to specific structures and say ‘Look, this is not an ancient volcano but one that is active today, dormant perhaps, but not dead,'” said Montési in the UMD news post. He added that “This study significantly changes the view of Venus from a mostly inactive planet to one whose interior is still churning and can feed many active volcanoes.”
What do you think about these models and their pointing to Venus as having active volcanoes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Feature image: NASA/JPL