Early, energetic collisions may have driven volcanism on Venus

A new study finds that Earth’s sister planet Venus may have experienced high-velocity, high-energy impacts.

A team led by Southwest Research Institute compared the early impact histories of Earth and Venus to explain how the latter maintained a younger surface in the absence of plate tectonics.

Both Earth and Venus formed at the same time, but have evolved differently over billions of years. Unlike Earth, Venus has only one continuous plate on its surface, but has more volcanoes than any other planet in the Solar System, about 60 times more than Earth. These volcanoes played an important role in revitalizing its surface through lava flows, a process that continues to this day.

Co-author Professor Jun Korenaka of Yale University said, „Our latest models show that long-lived volcanism on Venus driven by early, energetic collisions provides a compelling explanation for its young surface age. This massive volcanism is fueled by a superheated core, resulting in intense internal melting.”

Subtle differences in the distances of Earth and Venus from the Sun lead to variations in their impact histories, particularly in the number and outcome of these collisions. Venus’s close proximity to the Sun and its high orbital speed made impact conditions exciting. Additionally, the collisions that contributed to the growth of Venus came mainly from objects originating beyond Earth’s orbit, which required higher orbital eccentricities to collide with Venus instead of Earth.

Lead author of a new paper on these findings in Natural Astronomy is Dr. Simone Marchi, said„Interest in Venus is high right now. These findings will be coordinated with upcoming missions, and mission data will help confirm the findings.”

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NASA’s upcoming VERITAS mission (short for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, Insar, Topography and Spectroscopy) will study the surface and interior of Venus. It was followed by the agency’s DAVINCI mission and the European Space Agency’s ENVISION mission.

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