Mapping Venus

Monday, March 22, 2010 - 03:21 in Astronomy & Space

Venus and Earth have long been thought of as sister planets. Given its similar size and proximity to Earth in the inner Solar System, Venus might seem like a promising candidate for having a surface that evolves through a tectonic process similar to what occurs on Earth, where rigid plates slowly shift across the underlying mantle. But a recent analysis by Peter James, a graduate student in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, highlights the fact that Earth’s plate tectonics seem to be the exception rather than the rule for rocky planets like Venus, Mars and Mercury. James provides new evidence that the generation and recycling of the surface on Venus occurs through a process that is actually quite different from what happens on Earth. His finding supports a theory that first arose in the early 1990s, when NASA’s Magellan spacecraft orbited Venus and took radar images of...

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