Venus can have a ‘Squishy’ surface that regenerates itself constantly

To call Venus the world’s football would be an understatement. It is very similar to Earth – and yet at the same time as unlike Earth as one would expect an Earth-like world to be.

One of these variations is the Venusian lithosphere – the Earth’s hard, outer shell. On Earth, the lithosphere splits and moves, divided into tectonic plates that help shape the Earth’s surface, all the while draining heat from the Earth’s surrounding tectonic plates.

Venus’s lithosphere, in contrast, is free of problems, which makes the processes behind the planet’s cooling and regeneration something of a mystery.

A new study suggests that Venus may have a small ‘squishy’ lithosphere that is constantly churning up.

An example of the large Quetzalpetlatl Corona located in the southern hemisphere of Venus. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Peter Rubin)

Studying these processes is complex and difficult: Venus is suffocated by a thick, toxic atmosphere that sheds acidic water and maintains temperatures at an average of 475 degrees Celsius (887 degrees Fahrenheit). The Londoners who were sent there did not last long.

But the data collected by the Magellan orbiter many years ago may have been keeping Venus secret all these years. Kumbon used radar to penetrate the planet’s thick clouds and image the surface — and now, scientists have used that data to discover Venus’ lithosphere may be thinner than once thought. .

Led by biologist Suzanne Smrekar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the team of researchers used the Magellan data to study in detail the surface features of rocks called coronae and the craters and craters that surround them. They found that, where the cores are close together, the lithosphere is probably thin and flexible, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) on average.

The model shows that the heat flux at the surface is greater in these areas than the global average temperature.

“For a long time we were locked into this idea that the lithosphere of Venus is stable and thick, but now our view is changing,” Smrekar said.

“While Venus does not have Earth-like tectonics, these regions of thin lithosphere appear to allow large amounts of heat to escape, similar to areas where new tectonic plates are forming on Earth’s oceans.”

For a long time, scientists thought that Venus currently does not have much material in it, but recent studies have shown more signs. Coronae is one of these signs.

These features look like impact holes, and consist of a raised ring (like a crown) around a convoluted center, with a fractured focus radiating outward. They can be huge, too, hundreds of kilometers across.

Scientists first thought about coronae they were craters, but closer inspection shows that they are actually volcanic in nature. They are created by a mass of hot material rising from the planet’s interior, pushing the surface into a bubble that collapses inward when the crater cools, spilling from the edges to form a ring.

Magellan’s image of the Aine Corona on the surface of Venus. (NASA/JPL)

In fact, the effects are few and far between for Venus, at least compared to planets like Mars and Mercury. This distinction has long been a difficult one to resolve. The more craters the Earth has, the older its surface is estimated to be. If the world has small impact holes, something must have affected them.

The surface of Venus is 80 percent volcanic, suggesting some sort of process to put the internals of this planet out into the past. Many signs indicate that such a volcano is not recent, but continues, changing the face of the young world.

The work of Smrekar and her colleagues supports this hypothesis. Continued heat loss in the coronal regions of Venus indicates continued tectonic activity as magma circulates beneath the surface.

Compared to Mars, Venus has been sadly denied our attention in recent years, so there is a real lack of modern information; The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akatsuki probe is currently the only dedicated Venus mission. For a planet similar to Earth, this looks promising, despite the challenges, but most agencies have Venus operations at the moment.

For NASA, this mission is VERITAS, a study planned for launch in 2027. Scientists hope to be able to use it to closely study the coronae of Venus.

“VERITAS will be an orbiting geologist, which will be able to determine where these active areas are, and will better resolve local differences in lithospheric thickness. We will even be able to capture the lithosphere in the process of deformation,” said Smrekar.

“We’ll determine if volcanism really makes the lithosphere ‘squishy’ enough to lose heat like Earth, or if Venus has more secrets in store.”

The study was published in Nature of Geoscience.

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