Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hot lava flows on Venus

19.06.2015

Using a camera onboard of the space probe Venus Express, scientists discover strong evidence for active volcanism

An international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has found the best evidence yet for active volcanism on Venus. Analysing data from the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft the scientists were able to locate a region on the planet’s surface with four hot spots that changed temperature significantly in the course of a few days.


Natural primeval powers: Artist’s impression of volcanic activity on Venus.

© ESA/AOES medialab


Tracks on the surface: the maps presented here show changes in relative brightness in the Atla region. The images were captured on three different days. Red-orange indicates an increase, blue-purple a decrease. One area, labelled ‘Object A’, shows a distinct increase in brightness on 24 June 2008.

© E. Shalygin et al (2015)

The estimated size and temperature of smallest of these hotspots, which are believed to be lava lakes, is only a few square kilometres in size and 830 Celsius degrees.

Seeing Venus’ surface is extremely difficult due to its thick atmosphere, but radar observations by previous missions to Venus have revealed it as a world covered in volcanoes and ancient lava flows. Venus is almost exactly the same size as Earth and has a similar bulk composition, so is likely to have an internal heat source, perhaps due to radioactive heating. This heat has to escape somehow, and one possibility is that it does so in the form of volcanic eruptions.

Some models of planetary evolution suggest that Venus was resurfaced in a cataclysmic flood of lava around half a billion years ago. But whether Venus is active today has remained a hot topic in planetary science. ESA’s Venus Express, which completed its eight-year study of the planet last year, conducted a range of observations at different wavelengths to address this important question.

In a study published in 2010, scientists reported that the infrared radiation coming from three volcanic regions was different to that from the surrounding terrain. They interpreted this as coming from relatively fresh lava flows that had not yet experienced significant surface weathering. These flows were found to be less than 2.5 million years old, but the study could not establish whether there is still active volcanism on the planet.

An additional piece of evidence was reported in 2012, showing a sharp rise in the sulphur dioxide content of the upper atmosphere in 2006 to 2007, followed by a gradual fall over the following five years. Although changes in wind patterns could have caused this, the more intriguing possibility is that episodes of volcanic activity were injecting vast amounts of sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere.

Now, using a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft’s Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet’s atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists headed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has spotted localised changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart.

“We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again,” says Eugene Shalygin from the MPS and lead author of the paper reporting the results in Geophysical Research Letters this month. “These four ‘hotspots’ are located in what are known from radar imagery to be tectonic rift zones, but this is the first time we have detected that they are hot and changing in temperature from day to day. It is the most tantalising evidence yet for active volcanism.”

The hotspots are found along the Ganiki Chasma rift zone close to the volcanoes Ozza Mons and Maat Mons. Rift zones are results of fracturing of the surface, which is often associated with upwelling of magma below the crust. This process can bring hot material to the surface, where it may be released through fractures as a lava flow.

“These observations are close to the limits of the spacecraft’s capabilities and it was extremely difficult to make these detections with Venus’ thick clouds impairing the view,” says co-author Wojciech Markiewicz. “But the VMC was designed to make these systematic observations of the surface and luckily we clearly see these regions that change in temperature over time, and that are notably higher than the average surface temperature.”

Because VMC’s view is blurred by the clouds, the areas of increased emission appear spread out over large areas more than 100 km across, but the hot regions on the surface below are probably much smaller. Indeed, for the hotspot known as ‘Object A’, the team calculate that the feature may only be around 1 square kilometre in size, with a temperature of 830 °C, much higher than the global average of 480 °C.

The Ganiki Chasma rift zone was already considered to be one of the most recently geologically active regions on the planet, and as the new analysis suggests, it is still active today. “It looks like we can finally include Venus in the small club of volcanically active Solar System bodies,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Venus Express project scientist. “Our study shows that Venus, our nearest neighbour, is still active and changing in the present day – it is an important step in our quest to understand the different evolutionary histories of Earth and Venus.


Contact

Dr. Birgit Krummheuer
Press Officer

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 384979-462

Fax: +49 551 384979-240

Email: Krummheuer@mps.mpg.de

 
Dr. Eugene Shalygin
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 384979-153

Email: Shalygin@mps.mpg.de

 
Dr. Wojciech Markiewicz
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
Phone: +49 555 6979-294

Email: Markiewicz@mps.mpg.de


Original publication
E.V. Shalygin, M.J. Markiewicz et al.

Active volcanism on Venus in the Ganiki Chasma rift zone

Geophysical Research Letters, accepted for publication

Source

Dr. Birgit Krummheuer | Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/9286052/hot-lava-flows-venus

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A quantum walk of photons
24.05.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object
23.05.2017 | University of California - Davis

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Information integration and artificial intelligence for better diagnosis and therapy decisions

24.05.2017 | Information Technology

CRTD receives 1.56 Mill. Euro BMBF-funding for retinal disease research

24.05.2017 | Awards Funding

Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History

24.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>