The team used observations made by the Magellan probe, which orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994 and mapped the surface using radar. The features it observed before have been analyzed, but the new study uses a new computer model that can identify surface deformations that indicate large clump structures in the lithosphere. These blocks, each about the size of Alaska, seemed to be slowly scrambling against each other like a broken ice pack in a pond or lake.
This is very different from the current type of plate tectonics on Earth. But if confirmed, it would nevertheless be evidence of convection currents and magma in the interior of Venus – something that has not been observed before. The authors believe that similarities with Earth’s geology during Archean Eon (2.5 to 4 billion years ago) suggest that the “ice pack” patterns could be a transition from an earlier period of plate tectonics on Venus when the planet was more Earth-like.
This motion is “widespread across the lowlands of Venus, and calls for a previously unrecognized approach to global tectonics,” says Sean Solomon, a research scientist at Columbia University and one of the authors of the new study.
The results just beyond more excitement New Venus missions It was recently approved by NASA and the European Space Agency. Solomon says he and his team hope the three can provide “important data to test the ideas we describe in our paper.” These missions won’t be ready to go until the end of the decade, so let’s hope the excitement doesn’t fade over the next several years.