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]