PASADENA, Calif., April 8 (UPI) — NASA says its scientists have, for the first time, detected clear signs of recent lava flows on Venus that suggest the planet is geologically alive.
Sue Smrekar, a scientist at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said the observations reveal volcanoes on Venus appeared to erupt between a few hundred years to 2.5 million years ago. That, she said, would make Venus one of the few worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active within the last 3 million years.
Scientists said the evidence comes from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express that has been orbiting the planet since 2006 and from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft that orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994.
The researchers said relatively young lava flows have been identified by the way they emit infrared radiation and it is those observations, among other data, that suggest Venus is still capable of volcanic eruptions.
“The geological history of Venus has long been a mystery,” said Smrekar, lead author of a paper describing the study. “Previous spacecraft gave us hints of volcanic activity, but we didn’t know how long ago that occurred. Now we have strong evidence right at the surface for recent eruptions.”
The research is reported in the journal Science.
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