The Case for an Active Volcano on Venus

Venusian volcano Idunn Mons in radar data
Venusian volcano Idunn Mons is proven right here in radar knowledge from the Magellan spacecraft (brown areas) with an overlay of the warmth patterns noticed by the Venus Express spacecraft (rainbow areas). The vertical scale is exaggerated by an element of 30.

Ancient History or Today’s News?

Venus’s floor is dotted with volcanoes and puddled with lava flows, but it surely’s difficult to discern which of those options are historical and that are more moderen. Using knowledge from Venus-orbiting spacecraft, we will search for the delicate adjustments to Venus’s floor and environment that sign the presence of erupting volcanoes.

Natural hot springs on Earth
Today’s article focuses on Imdr Regio, which is considered analogous to hotspots on Earth, the place warmth rises from under the floor and might trigger volcanism in addition to thermal options like the new springs proven right here.
National Parks Service / Damon Joyce

Aside from the thrill of including one other merchandise to the listing of recognized lively volcanoes within the solar system, determining which of Venus’s volcanoes are lively is essential as a result of volcanoes are a possible supply of phosphine, a compound that arises from organic processes on Earth and is considered an essential biosignature on Venus. In order to interpret detections of phosphine, we have to know what number of volcanoes are actively producing it.

Evidence from Multiple Avenues

A workforce led by Piero D’Incecco (D’Annunzio University of Chieti–Pescara, Italy) rounded up spacecraft observations of Venus’s floor and environment and mixed them with findings from laboratory research to construct a compelling case for the lively volcanism of Idunn Mons, a 2.5-km excessive, 200-km broad volcano in Imdr Regio. The workforce bolstered their case with three key items of proof:

Two radar views of Idunn Mons from the Magellan spacecraft
Two radar views of Idunn Mons from the Magellan spacecraft
Adapted from D’Incecco et al. 2021
  1. Surface observations: The area surrounding Idunn Mons reveals indicators of overlapping lava flows, the uppermost of which is coincident with a area of unusually excessive thermal emission, which is assumed to point a floor that hasn’t but been corroded by Venus’s caustic environment.
  2. Laboratory work: Recent laboratory research, which recreate the new, high-pressure surroundings of Venus’s floor to grasp the way it impacts totally different minerals, have proven that chemical weathering — alteration of the floor materials by means of chemical reactions with atmospheric gases — occurs extra rapidly than beforehand thought. This means we’ve overestimated the ages of the lava flows surrounding Idunn Mons.
  3. Atmospheric observations: Venus’s floor additionally interacts with the environment on a macroscopic scale; landforms like volcanoes generate standing waves within the environment known as gravity waves (to not be confused with gravitational waves!). These waves could cause Venus’s winds to decelerate as they journey above a volcano. In the case of Idunn Mons, the winds decelerate greater than anticipated given the dimensions of the volcano, which might be because of warmth radiating from current lava flows.

Venusian Explorations Ahead

The European Space Agency’s upcoming EnVision mission with Earth and Venus
The European Space Agency’s upcoming EnVision mission, which is deliberate to launch in 2031, seeks to grasp why Earth and Venus are so totally different.
NASA / JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic / VR2Planets

Combining all of the accessible proof, D’Incecco and collaborators conclude that Idunn Mons has been lively just lately, maybe inside our lifetimes — anyplace from 10,000 years in the past to just some years in the past. Recently chosen spacecraft missions ought to quickly enable us to check Idunn Mons additional. In specific, NASA’s Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) orbiter and the European Space Agency’s EnVision orbiter each plan to map Venus’s floor in extraordinarily excessive decision, which is essential for detecting floor adjustments because of volcanic exercise.


“Idunn Mons: Evidence for Ongoing Volcano-Tectonic Activity and Atmospheric Implications,” P. D’Incecco et al 2021 Planet. Sci. J. 2 215. doi:10.3847/PSJ/ac2258


This submit initially appeared on AAS Nova, which options analysis highlights from the journals of the American Astronomical Society.

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