Venus’s soft outer shell may be resurfacing from the planet, according to the researchers.
Using data from three decades ago from NASA’s Magellan mission, agency scientists examined how Venus cools and found that thin regions of the planet’s upper layer may have an answer.
By making measurements of quasi-circular geologic features on Venus called “coronae” in the Magellan images, the team concluded that coronae tend to be located where the planet’s lithosphere is thinnest and most active.
A thin lithosphere allows more heat to escape from the planet’s interior through floating columns of molten rock that rise toward the outer shell, according to NASA. Where there is greater heat flux, there is greater volcanic activity below the surface, so the coronas are likely to reveal locations where active geology is shaping Venus’ surface.
EARTH-SIZED EXOPLANET DISCOVERED USING NASA DATA
Focusing on 65 unstudied coronas, the group measured the depth of the trenches and the ridges around each one to estimate the thickness of the surrounding lithosphere. They found that the ridges are closer together in areas where the lithosphere is more flexible. Using computer models, they determined that, on average, the lithosphere around each corona is about seven miles thick, much thinner than previous studies suggested.
The regions have an estimated heat flux that is greater than the Earth average, suggesting that the coronas are geologically active.
NEW HUBBLE TELESCOPE IMAGE OF SATURN REVEALS MYSTERIOUS FEATURES
“While Venus does not have similar tectonics to Earth, these regions of thin lithosphere appear to be allowing significant amounts of heat to escape, similar to areas where new tectonic plates are forming on Earth’s seafloor,” he said. Suzanne Smrekar, NASA principal research scientist. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she said in a statement. Smrekar led the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
By counting the number of impact craters on Venus, scientists estimate that its surface is relatively young. Studies suggesting that Venus’ youthful-looking surface is likely due to volcanic activity, which drives regional surface renewal, are supported by new research indicating increased heat flux in coronal regions.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“What is interesting is that Venus provides a window into the past to help us better understand what Earth may have been like more than 2.5 billion years ago. It is in a state that is predicted to occur before a planet forms plate tectonics.” said Smrekar.