Astronomers recently published a study in Nature Astronomy suggesting that Venus once had tectonic plates around 4.5 billion years ago. The new study reveals that Venus, which is an infernal planet with a hostile surface that can dissolve lead, has plates that moved and shaped the planet’s landscape and climate. This implies that Venus may have a dynamic history similar to Earth billions of years ago.
How Researchers Came Up with This Discovery About Venus’ Tectonic Plates
A team of researchers from Brown University led the scientists that made the recent discovery. They conducted the study by studying data obtained from Venusian probes and computer models. The data and models revealed how the ancient atmosphere of Venus holds answers to its past tectonic. It also revealed the evidence of ancient life on the hellish planet.
The scientists previously thought that Venus’ surface has a single plate with possible little movement or gas exchange. However, while examining recent data, they realized that this previous assumption did not match with the latest data obtained about Venus’ atmosphere, which suggests that the hellish planet has a massive amount of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and an extremely high amount of pressure.
They also attempted to simulate what would possibly have happened to Venus in the past to make its surface extremely hostile for any form of life known to mankind today. During the study, the team discovered that the best fit was when they added some limited tectonic movement in Venus’ early stage.
This was followed by the current stagnant lid model. Based on this study, scientists suggest that Venus may have once had some plates that moved slowly and periodically, just like tectonic plates on Earth. The study also suggests that this movement may have happened on the two terrestrial planets about 4.5 billion to 3.5 billion years ago.
Matt Weller, who served as the research’s lead author revealed that the study suggests that we possibly had two planets in the same solar system operating in a plate tectonic regime. This implies that a similar mode of tectonics that enabled life to exist on Earth today once occurred on Venus. Hence, this new discovery increases the possibility of microbial life existing on ancient Venus.
Why Scientists marvel at This Discovery on tectonic plates on venus
Since we started studying Venus, scientists have never discovered the presence of tectonic plates on the hellish planet. However, the new study is suggesting that plate tectonics on both Venus and Earth may mean the presence of life.
Alexander Evans, an assistant professor of Earth, environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Brown University and a study co-author suggests that the new study proves that planets may have switched between different tectonic states, which is very common. The scientists also said that planets switch from being habitable to non-habitable instead of always remaining habitable just like Earth.
He added that the tectonic state exists in a binary, either on or off and throughout the lifecycle of Venus. The team also reveals that their concept can be helpful in studying other distant worlds like Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Previous discoveries suggest that it may have plate tectonics. This concept can also be deployed in studying distant exoplanets.
“We’re still in this paradigm where we use the surfaces of planets to understand their history,” Evans said. “We really show for the first time that the atmosphere may actually be the best way to understand some of the very ancient histories of planets that are often not preserved on the surface.”
Helpful To Future Missions
The scientists who made this discovery suggest that their findings will assist future NASA missions like DAVINCI. This mission will target measuring gasses in the Venusian atmosphere to verify their findings. While they wait for the outcome of this mission, the team is hoping to study what actually happened to plate tectonics on Venus.
The theory proposed by the researchers reveals that Venus became extremely hot. Its atmosphere also became thick, thereby drying up basic necessary ingredients for tectonic movements.
“Venus ran out of juice to some extent, and that put the brakes on the process,” said Daniel Ibarra, a professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and co-author.
“That’s going to be the next critical step in understanding Venus, its evolution, and ultimately the fate of the Earth,” Weller said. “What conditions will force us to move in a Venus-like trajectory, and what conditions could allow the Earth to remain habitable?”
Researchers recently published a study in Nature Astronomy suggesting that Venus once had tectonic plates around 4.5 billion years ago. The new study reveals that Venus is an infernal planet with a hostile surface that can dissolve lead. It has plates that move and shape the planet’s landscape and climate. What do you think about this study?