Unveiling the Fiery Secrets of Venus: A Journey Beyond Earth's Atmosphere

Such discoveries highlight an essential truth about planetary science: it is forever changing. A picture is routinely painted of what we know about the cosmos – but as new technology and new perspectives transform our outlook, we are increasingly forced to reconsider what is true. And one of the most remarkable revelations in recent years has been the discovery of volcanoes on Venus. Using 30-year-old Magellan data that has been passed over many times, scientists have pieced together what appear to be clear signs of active volcanoes on the surface. For years, the planet was thought to be a barren backwater of slow-moving tectonics. But it wasn’t. It might even be possible that Earth has an inhabited twin planet that’s hiding in plain sight. This month our journey through the clouds of Venus will talk about these fiery secrets, and what they mean for the next frontier of space exploration.

The Magellan Legacy: A Portal to Venus's Hidden Wonders

In 1989, the spacecraft Magellan set off to chart the surface of Venus – a synthetic aperture radar probe that sent a signal into the dense atmosphere to reveal something of the world on the other side. The spacecraft, which completed its mission in 1994, was a one-off. Or so it seemed. Although the launch marked the end of Magellan’s mission, it was only a beginning. Today, Magellan’s legacy is present in the work of two scientists who have made some of the biggest advances we’ve had in understanding Venus in decades. They both provide evidence of Venus’s volcanic activity.

Rekindling the Flames: The Discovery of Venus's Active Volcanoes

With the recent re-analyses of Magellan data, contemporary researchers have begun to detect evidence of recent volcanic activity on Venus’s surface. This includes the planet’s tallest volcano, Maat Mons, which might be the site of recent volcanism, dating to no more than a few hundred years ago. Most powerful of all emerging conceptualisations of recent Venus would be the idea that, far from a static sliver of rock, the planet is still an active place.

The Significance of Youthful Lava Flows

Lava flows near Maat Mons look remarkably similar to lava flows on Earth even down to the individual lava blobs. The ages of these flows are thought to be less than 2.5 million years old, a relatively recent event on a geologic time scale, and reveal a vibrant, dynamic geology for Venus, a planet we used to think was dead and stuck in time.

INSPIRING Future Voyages to Venus

This discovery, based on revisiting Magellan’s data, is a call to action for the scientific community to study Venus’s geologic processes more in detail. Current missions scheduled to visit Venus – including NASA’s Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus (DAVINCI+) and ESA’s EnVision – will enhance our capability to explore Venus in a way never before possible, revolutionising our understanding of our neighbouring world.

The Eternal Flame of Curiosity: Venus's Volcanic Activity as a Window to Planetary Secrets

This rekindled attention to Venus – a planet that, thanks to the detection of her volcanoes, is no longer the dead rock many thought it was – demonstrates that we must never stop seeking out knowledge. And perhaps the most important lesson Venus has left us is to never limit our horizons to our own home. While we still have much to learn from studying the events on Earth that have given rise to our biosphere, it is clear that to understand fundamental, planetary-scale processes, we must look beyond our own world. The search for new knowledge on Venus, and all the planets, is of paramount importance in understanding our own intrinsic value as a part of our solar system and where we might find life elsewhere. Inspired by the fires of Venus, we are embarking on new journeys through the cosmos.


To me, at the overdose of this discovery lies the meaning of the verb ‘to inspire’. This force of discovery was responsible for making a rocket ship go to Venus in the first place, and it powers so much of what we see around us, and how we today perceive the Universe. Venus’s volcanoes are the embodiment of the tremendous power behind the scientific exploration of space. It is that power to inspire us that will continue lighting the way for us as we venture out into the cosmos.

Likewise, **Inspire** is a guide of sorts, throwing a light into the dark waters of space, steering us towards the science that could be realised by a new mission to Venus and beyond. Inspiration is the impetus we need to explore, to find new knowledge, and hopefully, to also find hope for humanity’s future among the stars.

In the end, the discovery of volcanoes on Venus fuels our imagination and propels us onward toward the exploration of our cosmos. It reminds us that planets are dynamic and in motion, and that beneath the surface there are stories to tell. And we gain inspiration from these stories, and move onward and upward, further deep into space.

May 30, 2024
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