The hellscape of Venus is riddled with even more volcanoes than scientists thought.
Using radar images taken by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s, researchers cataloged about 85,000 volcanoes scattered across the surface of Venus . This is almost 50 times more volcanoes than estimated in past studies. Planetary scientists Rebecca Hahn and Paul Byrne of Washington University in St. Louis presented the map in April JGR Planets .
Such a detailed description of volcanism on Venus could provide clues about the planet’s interior, such as hotspots of magma production, Byrne says. And thanks to the recent discovery that Venus is volcanically active, the map could also help pinpoint places to look for new eruptions.
Almost all of the volcanoes found by Hahn and Byrne are less than 5 kilometers wide. About 700 are between 5 and 100 kilometers across, and about 100 are more than 100 kilometers wide. The team also found many close clusters of small volcanoes, called volcanic fields.
Literally hot spots
This map of Venus shows the locations and sizes of all volcanoes visible in radar data from the Magellan spacecraft. Newly discovered volcanoes range in size from less than 5 kilometers wide to over 100 kilometers across, although most are small.
Mapping the volcanoes of Venus
“We have a better understanding of how many volcanoes there are on Venus than we do on Earth,” where most volcanoes are likely hidden beneath the oceans, Byrne says. But he doesn’t think Magellan’s data tell the whole story of Venus volcanism. This spacecraft could see elements about 1 kilometer in diameter. There are “many, many volcanoes on Earth that are much smaller than a kilometer in diameter,” says Byrne. “This probably applies to Venus as well.”
Maybe we’ll find out soon. NASA’s VERITAS spacecraft and the European Space Agency’s EnVision mission are slated to take a much sharper look at Venus’ hellish surface over the next decade.