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This map of Venus shows every volcano we know about on its surface

A map of the volcanoes on Venus is the most comprehensive record of volcanic activity on any planet, including Earth.

Unlike Earth, which has many volcanoes deep beneath its oceans, Venus is all rock, making it easier to survey. In the early 1990s, NASA’s Magellan satellite mapped the planet’s surface and its volcanic features using radar, but much of the data was difficult to handle at scale due to a lack of computing power.

Now, Paul Byrne and Rebecca Hahn at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, have used this radar data and modern mapping software to create a detailed overview of the volcanic landscape on Venus. Their map includes 85,000 volcanoes, with nearly 1000 that are larger than 5 kilometres in diameter.

The map will be free to use for researchers trying to find evidence of recent volcanic activity and trying to understand the planet’s volcanic processes.

In March, Robert Herrick at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his colleagues found the first conclusive evidence of active volcanic activity on Venus, after measuring the change in size of a volcanic vent over a period of eight months in the Maat Mons volcano system, also from Magellan radar data.

Herrick and his team found this changing vent by manually combing through images of areas that they thought were more likely to contain volcanic activity. A map might make that process less time consuming, by showing patterns in where volcanoes are grouped close together, for example.

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A reference map will also be helpful for comparing newer data, such as from the European Space Agency’s EnVision and NASA’s VERITAS satellites. These expeditions will carry out high resolution radar surveys and should be able to identify smaller volcanoes than was possible with Magellan. Some researchers estimate that there could be hundreds of thousands more volcanoes than we are able to see now.

Journal reference:

Journal of Geophysical Research DOI: 10.1029/2023JE007753

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