Photo: black pearl (Flickr)
Do you remember that painting, The Birth of Venus? The goddess is emerging from the sea in a shell.
Coming Out Of A Volcano
The planet’s named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, but it’s not what I’d call beautiful. Venus’s carbon dioxide filled atmosphere is shrouded by a layer of sulfuric acid clouds so thick its surface can’t be seen from space. The atmospheric pressure is ninety two times that of Earth’s. And its average temperature can reach eight-hundred-sixty-three degrees Fahrenheit.
The European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter discovered evidence of volcanic eruptions that occurred as recently as several thousand years ago. That would make Venus one of three worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active in recent geologic times. The others are Earth and Mars.
What About Volcanoes Now?
Recently, the Express detected large increases in the sulfur dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere. Since sunlight destroys the molecule in just a couple of days, scientists knew it had been produced not long before. A volcanic eruption would be just the kind of event that would blast sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere.
Does that mean they’ve found a volcano?
Venus’s atmosphere rotates so fast that sulfur dioxide is quickly dispersed. That makes it difficult to find the source. Hopefully Venus Express will get lucky and detect a volcano in action. Then we can call Venus the goddess of fire and brimstone.