Evidence of an 'active' Venus found

Oct. 25, 2010 at 8:32 PM
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SANTA CRUZ, Calif., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- New evidence suggests beneath its obscuring cloud cover Venus may be geologically active like the present Earth, not long dead like Mars, U.S. scientists say.

More than 1,000 volcanoes have been observed on the surface of Venus but scientists have long sought definitive evidence that the planet is active today, ScienceNews.org reports.

Now, planetary geologists say they have spotted a lava flow that is could be just decades old.

"The flow we studied seems to be very young -- it is still warm inside," Nataliya Bondarenko, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says.

Her team analyzed microwave data collected by NASA's Magellan mission to Venus in the early 1990s that could measure heat coming from the planet, such as a lava flow in the process of cooling.

In Venus' northern hemisphere, the team found a flow that appeared up to 185 degrees F hotter than expected. Had the flow been more than a century old, Bondarenko says, it would have cooled down enough that Magellan wouldn't have been able to measure any any excess heat.

Bondarenko says she and her colleagues want to expand their research to look for other fresh flows on Venus.

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