Astronomy with Dave Eicher this week

For such an old planet, Venus has a relatively young surface. The only way is volcanic activity.

In the early years of astronomy, Venus was often referred to as Earth's sister planet. But when NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft made its first visit to the planet in 1962, scientists realized that Venus is similar to Earth. Its surface is a hellish terrain with temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius), and its atmosphere is surrounded by clouds of sulfuric acid.


With more observations – especially from the Magellan craft – scientists were able to use radar and see beneath the clouds. They discovered a mystery: Venus's surface is relatively smooth, with very few craters bearing the numbers that represent Mars, the Moon, and other bodies in the inner solar system. This means the planet's surface was much younger than researchers first thought. The reason? Volcanoes brought up magma from deep inside Venus, filling craters and leaving a new surface.

Planetary scientists now conclude that about three-quarters of a billion years ago, Venus experienced a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that resurfaced much of the planet—one planetary scientist called Venus a „planet that threw itself off.” And evidence is mounting that Venus is still volcanically active today. In 2023, researchers looking at old Magellan images reported evidence that Mat Mons erupted in 1991, enlarging a nearby vent and spewing fresh lava.

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