The team used observations made by the Magellan probe, which orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994 and mapped the surface using radar. The features he spotted have already been analyzed, but the new study uses a new computer model that can recognize surface deformations indicating large block structures in the lithosphere. These blocks, each the size of Alaska, appear to have slowly jostled against each other like broken ice on a pond or lake.
This is quite different from the current type of plate tectonics on Earth. But if confirmed, it would nonetheless be evidence of currents of heat and molten matter within Venus – something that has never been observed before. The authors believe that parallels with the geology of the Earth during the Archean Aeon (2.5 to 4 billion years ago) suggest that the “sea ice” patterns may be a transition from an earlier period of tectonics. plaques on Venus when the planet looked more like Earth.
This movement “is widespread in the lowlands of Venus and argues for a style of world tectonics hitherto unrecognized,” says Sean Solomon, a researcher at Columbia University and co-author of the new study.
The results only fuel more enthusiasm behind the new missions of Venus recently approved by NASA and the European Space Agency. Solomon says he and his team are hoping all three can provide “critical data to test the ideas we described in our article.” These missions won’t be ready to go until towards the end of the decade, so let’s hope the excitement doesn’t wane over the next few years.