Space & Astronomy
'Pack ice' tectonic motion discovered on Venus
By T.K. Randall
June 23, 2021 · 2 comments
Venus shares striking similarities with the Earth. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
A groundbreaking discovery on Venus has indicated that it is even more Earth-like than previously believed.
In contrast to the Earth which has mobile tectonic plates, some planets, such as Mars, have an immobile outer shell (or lithosphere).
While Venus was also thought to be this way, new research has revealed that the second planet from the Sun actually does have tectonic motion that up until now had remained undetected.
"We've identified a previously unrecognized pattern of tectonic deformation on Venus, one that is driven by interior motion just like on Earth," said study lead author Paul Byrne.
"Although different from the tectonics we currently see on Earth, it is still evidence of interior motion being expressed at the planet's surface."
Byrne, along with an international team of researchers, used images from NASA's Magellan mission to build up a map of the planet's surface. Upon closer inspection, they found areas where large parts of the lithosphere had been pulled apart or pushed together like pack ice on a frozen lake.
"These observations tell us that interior motion is driving surface deformation on Venus, in a similar way to what happens on Earth," said Byrne.
"Plate tectonics on Earth are driven by convection in the mantle. The mantle is hot or cold in different places, it moves, and some of that motion transfers to Earth's surface in the form of plate movement."
"A variation on that theme seems to be playing out on Venus as well."
"It's not plate tectonics like on Earth - there aren't huge mountain ranges being created here, or giant subduction systems - but it is evidence of deformation due to interior mantle flow, which hasn't been demonstrated on a global scale before."
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