A team led by the Southwest Research Institute has discovered new information about Venus’ early impact history, shedding light on how the planet maintained its youthful surface despite the absence of plate tectonics. By comparing the collision histories of Earth and Venus, the researchers found that Venus experienced faster and more energetic impacts. These impacts resulted in the formation of a superheated core, which caused long periods of volcanism and reappearance on the planet.
Earth’s plate tectonics is constantly reshaping its surface as parts of the crust collide, forming mountains and promoting volcanism. Venus, on the other hand, has only one continuous plate on its surface, but has more volcanoes than any other planet in the solar system. With 80,000 volcanoes 60 times more numerous than Earth, Venus has seen extensive resurgence through floods of lava. Previous simulations have struggled to account for this level of volcanism.
New models suggest that the distance of Venus and Earth from the Sun led to high-energy, high-velocity impacts on Venus. These powerful collisions led to the formation of a superheated core, resulting in extended and extensive volcanism and rebirth of the planet. The team’s research assesses the long-term evolution of Venus through large-scale collisional modeling and an understanding of geodynamic processes.
This study not only helps explain the active surface of Venus, but also has implications for future missions to the planet. NASA has committed to two new Venus missions, Veritas and DaVinci, in 2021 while the European Space Agency plans the Envision mission. Findings from this research will complement these missions and provide valuable data to confirm model predictions and deepen our understanding of Venus’ geological history.
Understanding the internal conditions of Venus is a challenge, but this research provides a new perspective on the planet’s geodynamic processes. By considering the role of energetic impacts, models can explain the extensive and prolonged volcanism observed on Venus without requiring specific conditions or parameters. With renewed interest in Venus, this study provides promising insights into its geological evolution.