'Earth's twin' may still be active, new analysis of radar images suggests
June 21, 2021 at 19:00
This motion on the Venusian surface looks like blocks of crust that have moved against one another, much like broken chunks of pack ice.
Pack ice are the large pieces of floating ice that can be seen in a mass together in polar seas, like the waters around Antarctica.
"Although different from the tectonics we currently see on Earth, it is still evidence of interior motion being expressed at the planet's surface," Bryne said.
Previously, scientists believed Venus had an immovable solid outer shell, called a lithosphere, similar to Mars or our moon.
The blocks had pulled apart, pushed together, slid past each other and rotated -- much like broken pack ice.
The researchers modeled this surface deformation and determined that these tectonics actually match the slow movement of the planet's interior.
"These observations tell us that interior motion is driving surface deformation on Venus, in a similar way to what happens on Earth," Byrne said.
The movement and deformation of the crustal blocks also points to something else: Venus is likely still geologically active today.
By studying this pack ice pattern on Venus, researchers could use it to study exoplanets outside of our solar system and even the tectonics that were active on early Earth.
"The thickness of a planet's lithosphere depends mainly upon how hot it is, both in the interior and on the surface," Byrne said.
The VERITAS orbiter equipped with radar could create 3D topography, allowing scientists to determine how active Venus is volcanically through plate tectonic processes.
The spacecraft could also study infrared emissions coming off the planet's surface.