A simulated color image of the surface of Venus created by NASA using radar topography data acquired by the Magellan spacecraft.

An oblique view of Sapas Mons volcano, the same volcano shown in the vertical view above. This image views the volcano from the northwest. Features visible in this image can easily be matched to the vertical view above. Lava flows several hundred kilometers in length appear as narrow channels on the flanks of the volcano and spread into broad flows on the plain that surrounds the volcano. Image by NASA

Volcanoes on Venus

Discovery of a Volcanic Landscape

Venus is the closest planet to Earth. However, the surface of Venus is obscured by several layers of thick cloud cover. These clouds are so thick and so persistent that optical telescope observations from Earth are unable to produce clear images of the planet’s surface features.

The first detailed information about the surface of Venus was obtained until the early 1990s when the Magellan spacecraft (also known as the Venus Radar Mapper) used radar imaging to produce detailed topography data for most of the planet’s surface. That data was used to create images of Venus such as the one shown at the top of the right column.

Researchers expected the topography data to reveal volcanic features on Venus but they were surprised to learn that at least 90% of the planet’s surface was covered by lava flows and broad shield volcanoes. They were also surprised that these volcanic features on Venus were enormous in size when compared to similar features on Earth.

Read more: Volcanoes on Venus | Giant Shields and Extensive Lava Flows — Geology.

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