Venus alive geologically

Venus has life if volcanoes past and present fall into that category. And President Obama heads to Florida later next week to offer details for his controversial NASA priorities.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor
Idunn Mons on Venus. credit: European Space Agency

Scientists have found what they believe to be evidence of recent volcanoes on Venus. Recent, that is, in geological time or even in the present.

Scientists theorize the volcanoes took place between several hundred to 2.5 millions years ago, according to a statement on the European Space Agency's (ESA) web site. And they could still be occurring.

"Relatively young lava flows have been identified by the way they emit infrared radiation. The finding suggests the planet remains capable of volcanic eruptions," according to the ESA statement. One of the project's scientist says Venus today could have as much volcanic activity as earth, which has upward of 1,500 volcanoes that have erupted in past 10,000 years.

The discoveries were made by the ESA's Venus Express which has been orbiting the planet since 2006. The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board the Venus Express measured the brightness of rocks to determine  "emissivity," which determines if  volcanic activity is present.

Venus Express. credit: European Space Agency

The Venus Express data was mapped using topological data from NASA's Magellan spacecraft, which orbited Venus from 1990 until Oct. 11, 1994 when it was intentionally plunged into Venus' surface.

In July, ESA also reported that the southern hemisphere of Venus was "earth-like" and possibly once had an ocean of water. Venus is the second closest planet to the sun, which it orbits every 224.7 days, according to Wikipedia.

Follow this link for video and pictures. The findings can also be found in the April 8 issue of the journal Science (not online as of this writing).

On a related note, President Obama and assorted politicians travel to Florida next Thursday to flesh out the priorities for NASA outlined in February. The controversial plan scraps planned moon shots and NASA development of heavy lift booster rockets.

A good white paper on the topic by two aeronautics professors was released by MIT today, which recommends a Flexible Path, a strategy where technology and resources dictate the destinations as opposed to fixed deadlines.

Follow me on Twitter.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards