The Coronae of Venus: Evidence for Ongoing Volcanic Activity?

A radar image of the Aine coronae (large circular structure taking up most of the image) just south of the Aphrodite Terra. This image covers an area of approximately 300 kilometers, and the coronae is accompanied by several pancake dome volcanic features which formed through the eruption of viscous lava. Image credit: NASA/JPL

So far, the Earth is the only known planet to experience globally active plate tectonics and active volcanism; however, more evidence is emerging that Venus may have also experienced recent volcanic activity that may also be linked to localized subduction. Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Maryland have identified at least 37 recently active volcanic hotspots across the surface of Venus by comparing their results of 3D computer simulations to high-resolution radar images from the NASA Magellan space probe. The Magellan space probe mapped the surface of Venus for over four years from its launch in May 1989 and returned images of ring-like volcanic structures called coronae on the surface of Venus. The coronae are thought to have formed through mantle plume activity, which brings hot, upwelling magma from the depths of the mantle to the surface of a planet through convective currents. These volcanic features show a wide variety of shapes and sizes and this study aimed to investigate the cause of this diversity.

The study, led by Anna Gülcher of ETH Zurich, used a set of 3D computer simulations to investigate how the coronae formed and determine the link between their variation in surface topography and the processes that formed them. Their results show that coronae form through four stages of crust-mantle interaction, including a period of short-lived subduction. As such, different corona morphologies likely represent different stages in their evolution that relate to each of these four processes. At least 37 large coronae on the surface of Venus have been identified as active based on the results of this study, including the largest Artemis corona whose size would encompass most of the United States. This research presents new evidence of recent volcanic and local tectonic activity on the surface of Venus across a wider area than previously thought, contributing new understanding of the interior dynamics and evolution of Earth’s more hellish sister planet. READ MORE