The surface of Venus, considered Earth’s twin planet, has been a topic of speculation by scientists and astronomers alike for hundreds of years. Some believe that a thick layer of carbon dioxide obscures its surface, while others assume that the planet’s face is featureless, while still others debate that it is brimming with volcanoes. The latter was confirmed accurate by the new image supplied by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which exhibited the planet’s rough surface riddled with not only volcanoes, but craters as well.
A radio telescope found in West Virginia, the National Science Foundation ‘s Green Bank Telescope, and a radio transmitter in Puerto Rico’s Aceribo Observatory, worked in tandem to procure the image, using old-reliable radio waves.
Signals from the Arecibo Observatory passed through the atmosphere of Earth and through Venus’ atmosphere, piercing through the planet’s thick cloud of toxic gases. The signals ricocheted when they hit the planet’s surface and, by a process known as bistatic radar, the Green Bank Telescope was able to obtain the signals needed to produce the image.
However, this is not the first time that Venus’ surface was profiled. Many images of the planet’s surface was taken over the years, from 1988, 1999, 2001, and in 2012 by NASA’s Magellan probe, launched on May 4, 1988, in hopes of helping astronomers to understand the planet itself. However, this new development will help with tracking important changes on the planet’s surface, such as volcanic activity and geological processes, thus giving scientists more data to work with.
Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Bruce Campbell, admitted that the process of comparing the radar images is a lot of work, but combining the images taken in the past and the most recent ones, have provided critical information regarding the forces that continually shape Venus.
“The work is still ongoing,” according to Campbell, who is the senior scientist of The Center of Earth and Planetary Studies, a unit of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which is tasked with work involving environmental changes and terrestrial geophysics, in addition to planetary studies.
The geological processes of Venus could still be active, as astronomers are still trying to expose the changes they are currently observing. A number of volcanoes were active in the last two million years, which, in a geological timeline, is very recent.