Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun. Recently, scientists have taken a great interest in Venus for its potential to support life. Although this planet is far from terrestrial today, scientists have found that its crust is cracked.
Scientists at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have provided evidence that the planet had a more Earth-like atmosphere and ancient waters. But they also discovered that Venus could be geologically active, as evidenced by its shattered surface.
They discovered that the large shattered blocks of Venus are mobile like sea ice behaves. On Earth, sea ice moves all year round depending on the wind, weather and ocean currents.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This computer-generated perspective view of Latona Corona and Dali Chasma on Venus shows Magellan’s radar data overlaid on topography. The view is from the northeast and the vertical exaggeration is 10 times. Elevation exaggeration is a tool commonly used by scientists to detect relationships between structure (i.e. faults and fractures) and topography.
Movable Venus Crust Blocks
The study, entitled “A globally fragmented and mobile lithosphere on Venus “ Posted in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), showed that the crust of Venus undergoes ice floe tectonics, which is equivalent but not exactly the same as the plate tectonics that occur on Earth.
On Earth, plate tectonics collide and pull apart or slide away from each other. In contrast, the mobile crust of Venus does not create subduction zones or mountain ranges.
Paul Byrne of NCSU wrote in The conversation that the mobile bands of the crests and valleys of Venus show little deformation. These are large blocks of Venus’ crust that have moved, rotated, and slid over each other over time. The behavior of these large blocks mainly resembles the way sea ice behaves on top of the ocean.
Researchers believe the movement could be caused by the planet’s mantle, just as activity in the Earth’s mantle could trigger plate tectonics. They said Venus’ mantle swirls with currents when heated below, creating movements powerful enough to fragment the upper crust where scientists found the large boulders.
This movement on the crust of Venus is the closest thing to Earth’s tectonic plates that can be found anywhere near the solar system. Byrne wrote that the mobile and fragmented lithosphere at Veus could give scientists insight into how Earth’s tectonics shifted over the course of the Archean Aeon about four billion years ago.
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NASA’s Magellan spacecraft saw the moving blocks of Venus
According to Earth sky, the broken mobile crust of Venus was discovered using radar images from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, which launched in 1989 and orbited Venus until 1994.
The type of tectonics observed on the planet appears to correlate with its interior, suggesting that Venus was once geologically active and still is today. This shows a significant implication on the understanding of the mantle of the planet.
Understanding the tectonic processes of Venus will give an overview of what Venus was a few billion years ago and how it became as it is today. More so, it provides clues to processes similar to those of other planets in the solar system and on Earth.
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