PROVIDENCE, R.I., June 19 (UPI) -- Venus is volcanic. New data collected by the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission has offered the strongest evidence yet that Earth's closest neighbor hosts active volcanism.
The giveaway was intense temperature hotspots across the surface of Venus. Temp readings showed localized intensities -- likely lava-induced spikes in temperature that fade in just a few days.
"We were able to show strong evidence that Venus is volcanically, and thus internally, active today," lead researcher James W. Head, a geologist at Brown University, explained in a press release. "This is a major finding that helps us understand the evolution of planets like our own."
Head led a team of international scientists in analyzing the Venus Express data. Their work was published this week in the journal Geophysical Researcher Letters.
Researchers have long assumed that magma churns deep within Venus. The planet's distinctive surface is clearly the product of magmatic forces. The new research, however, shows activity is alive and well -- not ancient and slow.
The thermal imaging instruments found the hotspots in rift zone called Ganiki Chasma, an area produced by the stretch of crust as magma rises to the surface.
"We knew that Ganiki Chasma was the result of volcanism that had occurred fairly recently in geological terms, but we didn't know if it formed yesterday or was a billion years old," Head said. "The active anomalies detected by Venus Express fall exactly where we had mapped these relatively young deposits and suggest ongoing activity."