Too many Zoom meetings are incredibly boring, as many can testify, but this scientists’ schedule during lockdowns created the opportunity for an incredible discovery – volcanic activity on Venus.
From a NatGeo report:
“I had lots of Zoom meetings where I didn’t need to be fully engaged,” he says, referring to the height of the pandemic. “Whenever I had an hour here or there, I just started looking” at the old Magellan data. He manually aligned images of Venus’s volcanoes, searching for anything odd.
During one search, Herrick forensically examined Maat Mons. Named after the Egyptian goddess of truth and justice, it is the tallest volcano on the planet—and on one of its flanks, between February and October 1991, something changed. In those eight months, matter appears to have flooded into an open vent, which grew from 0.8 to 1.5 square miles, and a fresh stream of material seemingly oozed downslope.
After talking to his co-author, Scott Hensely from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the two concluded that indeed, Venus is volcanically alive.
Looking at radar images taken back in 1991 by NASA’s Magellan Spacecraft and analyzing a 2.2 sqm volcanic vent, two scientists noticed that there were the images taken 8 months apart – which means the vent changed shape and the planet has volcanic activity.
From the study: The radar images of a vent which has changed shape.
The researchers say that they consider these results as ongoing volcanic activity on Venus, though “cannot rule out that they were present but invisible in the first epoch due to differences in imaging geometry.”
As NatGeo explains, their findings could be corroborated in the early 2030s, when NASA’s VERITAS and Europe’s EnVision, two spacecraft fitted with cutting edge radar systems, arrive at Venus.
From the report:
“Evidence of ongoing volcanic activity on Venus has existential implications. The planet is much like Earth in size and composition, but its considerable ancient stores of water—possibly in the form of oceans—were vaporized long ago when the planet was scorched during a mysterious cataclysm. Runaway climate change triggered by apocalyptic eruptions remains the prime suspect. By understanding Venus’s present-day volcanism, scientists can learn more about the divergent fates of Earth and its blistering sister world.”
You can read more about exploring Venus in NatGeo and read the findings here.