Within the next decade, Venus will be visited by a fleet of spacecraft. This grand tour of the second planet, unseen since the Cold War, is driven by the search for a profound planetary enigma. Earth and Venus are the same size, lie next to each other and consist of the same star material. But the earth became an oasis while Venus became an acid-stained inferno. Why?
In order to derive an answer, every aspect of Venus must be examined. That includes the way his face has changed over time. The earth has plate tectonics, the gradual migration of continental-sized geological puzzle pieces on its surface – a pioneering sculptor who created an abundance of different volcanoes, vast mountain ranges, and vast ocean basins.
Venus has no plate tectonics. But, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it may exhibit a quirky twist on that process: portions of its surface appear to be made up of blocks that have shifted and twisted, distorting their surroundings as it walked.
These booging blocks, thin and flat slabs of rock known as campi (Latin for “fields”), can be as small as Ireland or as extensive as Alaska. They were found using data from NASA’s Magellan Orbiter mission, the agency’s final foray into Venus. In the early 1990s, it used radar to peer through the planet’s veiled atmosphere and map the entire surface. Looking again at these maps, scientists found 58 campuses scattered across the planet’s lava-covered lowlands.
These campuses are bordered by small mountain ranges and grooves that have also been warped and scarred over time. What did she do According to Paul Byrne, a planetary researcher at North Carolina State University and lead author of the study, there is only one reasonable explanation: the campuses, essentially dragged around by the flowing coat below, “have wandered around the place like pack ice. ”Campi moving towards immovable land would cause the ground to collapse and mountains to form. Pulling away would have stretched the land and opened grooves. And along these boundaries, campuses moving from side to side would have left traces of stretching and etching.
That this deformation took place in the lowlands of Venus is significant: the lava it suffocates is between 750 and 150 million years old, which makes these landscapes the youngest on earth. This means that the tectonic division of these campuses took place relatively recently in the history of the solar system. But does this dance still take place today?
NASA’s VERITAS missions and European EnVision missions will find out. Armed with their own advanced radar systems, these orbiters will examine these campuses at high resolution so scientists can determine if any have been hanging around since the days of Magellan. If so, it becomes further evidence of a long-held notion: Venus is tectonically active, though not as hyperactive or as dynamic as Earth.
Long ago, Venus had an ocean’s worth of water, possibly billions of years. This could have made plate tectonics possible, as liquid water causes plates to break, bend and flow. This process also regulates the climate by burying and emitting carbon and preventing worlds from exposure to runaway global warming that would render them uninhabitable.
But one of several possible apocalypses – perhaps several volcanic cataclysms – turned Venus into a dry landscape of hell, and its plate tectonics would have stalled. As a result, the entire planet’s surface has been a solitary, standing, and largely static plate for the past billion years or so.
But that doesn’t mean the planet has become tremor free. Thanks to missions like Magellan, scientists have previously discovered fault networks, rift zones, and mountain ridges – the scar tissue that has left both ancient and more modern movements. If this new study is correct, and if entire swaths of Venus have been wiggling around recently, then the planet’s surface is “more mobile than humans conventionally thought,” said Joseph O’Rourke, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University who did this was not involved in the work.
Explaining why Venus has this surprising tectonic pace would have significant implications. In the cosmos there are countless worlds the size of earth and venus, whose tectonic activity also determines their fate. But “we cannot claim to understand any rocky world in the solar system or beyond if we do not understand the earth and its closest neighbors,” said Dr. O’Rourke.
Venus and its innumerable surprises certainly do not make this task easy.