Enlarge / Maat Mons, one of the volcanoes of Venus, in a model created with radar data from the Magellan mission. (credit: NASA/JPL)
As we’ve explored the Solar System, some items we’re familiar with from Earth’s geology have kept appearing in new places.
Glaciers, volcanoes, and geysers have all been found on other planets and moons. With all that’s familiar, it’s easy to forget that one of the defining features of Earth’s geology—plate tectonics—is notably absent.
There are some hints of it on the icy crust of Europa, but it would have to be powered by a different mechanism there.
If there was an obvious candidate for hosting plates, it would be Venus, similar in size and composition to the Earth and home to active volcanoes.
But most of Venus’ surface appears to have been there for hundreds of millions of years with no sign of the tectonic recycling we have on Earth. New research, however, suggests that some of Venus’ crust does get recycled, just through a radically different process—one that may have been active early in Earth’s history.
While we’ve been able to map Venus’ surface, the planet’s thick atmosphere has limited what we know about its surface, and we’ve not had the sort of repeated imaging that can reveal active geology.
Even though we know its surface is littered with volcanoes, for example, we’re not currently certain whether any of them are active.
But crater counts suggest that most of the material on the surface is hundreds of millions of years old and had been put in place by massive eruptions.
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