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New Research Suggests There Are Active Volcanoes on Venus

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Scientists have known for a while now that there were once massive volcanic eruptions on the surface of Venus, specifically in the region known as the Ganiki Chasma. But now they believe some of the planet's volcanoes are still spewing hot magma there. 

"We knew that Ganiki Chasma was the result of volcanism that had occurred fairly recently in geological terms, but we didn't know if it formed yesterday or was a billion years old," said James Head, the co-author of a new international study, out recently in Geophysical Research Letters, that combed through the data from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission.

"We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again," Eugene Shalygin, lead author of the study, said

And he means a lot hotter. Venus is typically a scorching 896 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the course of the study, at least one spot observed by the Venus Express peaked at a temperature of 1526 degrees Fahrenheit. The scientists believe that these temperature spikes, which were contained to four specific areas and lasted just a few days, are the result of hot magma boiling up to the surface from inside the planet—in other words, active volcanic eruptions. These findings are consistent with earlier research that detected transient spikes in sulfur dioxide in Venus’ upper atmosphere, which is another potential signal of active volcanism.

The volcanoes place Venus amongst a small class within our solar system. In addition to Earth, the only other known home to magma-spewing volcanoes is Jupiter's moon Io. Uranus' moon Triton and Saturn's moon Enceladus both contain cryovolcanos, which spew frigid gases.

"This discovery fits nicely with the emerging picture of very recent activity in Venus’ geologic history," Head said. "These remarkable findings were the result of collaborations spanning many years and many political borders. They underscore the importance of international collaboration in exploring our solar system and understanding how it evolves."

[h/t Popular Science]

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Why There's a 4-Ton Steel Ball Making Mini-Earthquakes in Germany
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

An earthquake is caused by the shifting of tectonic plates, the pieces of Earth's crust that make up the surface of the planet. But humans have figured out how to create artificial earthquakes without relying on Mother Nature. YouTube personality Tom Scott recently visited the world's oldest working seismic station in Göttingen, Germany, to experience one of these mini-earthquakes in person.

Wiechert'sche Erdbebenwarte Göttingen is home to a 4-ton steel ball that can be hoisted 46 feet in the air. When dropped, the impact sends shock waves through the ground. The power to manufacture earthquakes on demand helps the team calibrate their seismographs, but there's another reason the rig was set up: It proved the theory that artificial quakes can be used to measure the earth underground.

German geophysicist Emil Wiechert got the idea a century ago. By using seismic meters to measure the reflections of waves rocking an area, he hypothesized that he would end up with an accurate sketch of what the world looked like below. The steel ball was set up in Göttingen in 1903, and it proved his theory to be correct.

More sophisticated instruments are used to measure subterranean landscapes today, but the mini-earthquake maker still functions as well now as it did 100 years ago. You can see it in action in the video below.

[h/t Tom Scott]

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