Have Venusian Volcanoes Been Caught In The Act?


Rise and fall of sulphur dioxide. Credits: Data: E. Marcq et al. (Venus Express); L. Esposito et al. (earlier data); background image: ESA/AOES Medialab

Rise and fall of sulphur dioxide. Credits: Data: E. Marcq et al. (Venus Express); L. Esposito et al. (earlier data); background image: ESA/AOES Medialab

Six years of observations by ESA’s Venus Express have shown large changes in the sulphur dioxide content of the planet’s atmosphere, and one intriguing possible explanation is volcanic eruptions. The thick atmosphere of Venus contains over a million times as much sulphur dioxide as Earth’s, where almost all of the pungent, toxic gas is generated by volcanic activity.

Most of the sulphur dioxide on Venus is hidden below the planet’s dense upper cloud deck, because the gas is readily destroyed by sunlight. That means any sulphur dioxide detected in Venus’ upper atmosphere above the cloud deck must have been recently supplied from below.

A previous analysis of infrared radiation from the surface pointed to lava flows atop a volcano with a composition distinct from those of their surroundings, suggesting that the volcano had erupted in the planet’s recent past. Now, an analysis of sulphur dioxide concentration in the upper atmosphere over six years provides another clue.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM32XE16AH_index_0.html
Also: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=51185

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