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Moon and Venus

September 8, 2015

Venus is named for the ancient goddess of love and beauty. A more fitting namesake, though, might be Vulcan, the god of fire and volcanoes. The planet’s surface temperature is more than 850 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s covered with volcanic features, and there’s evidence that some of the volcanoes are still active.

Venus Express monitored the planet from orbit for more than eight years, ending in late 2014. It studied Venus’s dense atmosphere, and used several instruments to peer through the clouds that top the atmosphere.

A few years ago, the craft detected a sharp increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. Mission scientists say the most likely cause was a volcanic eruption.

And earlier this year, scientists reported that Venus Express found several “hotspots” on the surface. The largest may spread across more than a hundred square miles. Temperatures in these areas climbed to hundreds of degrees above those of the surrounding landscape, then slowly cooled back down.

The hotspots were along a crack in the crust caused by molten rock bulging up from below. So it’s possible that the pressure caused hot lava to force its way to the surface — creating fresh volcanoes on this “Vulcanic” world.

And you can see why the planet was named for the goddess of beauty at dawn tomorrow. Venus shines as the dazzling “morning star,” almost directly below the crescent Moon.

We’ll have more about Venus and the Moon tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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