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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This is an image of Venus.
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Venus Tectonism

Like Mars, there is no plate tectonics on the surface of Venus. The surface of Venus does not *seem* to have changed or moved in billions of years. Unlike the case of Mars, however, careful examination of the evidence supports the idea that the surface of Venus may be active in a way that is very different from the Earth.

  • 1.) An examination of the surface of Venus shows cratering at all latitudes and longitudes. Craters are wiped out when the surface of a planet moves. Heavy cratering stopped soon after the solar system formed, about 4 billion years ago, so a surface which still shows evidence of that catering has not changed in a very long time.
  • 2.) Although heavy cratering has stopped, some cratering continues to this day. The impact of the SL-9 comet shows that planets can still be hit by objects in space. The cratering record of Venus is *very* peculiar in that
    • all surfaces are evenly cratered
    • the cratering rate is roughly the same as that of the Earth at present.
  • 3.) Features which suggest a lithosphere in motion are present, but few on Venus.
The surface of the Earth changes rapidly, so evidence of terrestrial cratering rapidly disappears. Nevertheless, because not every land mass undergoes subduction, there are regions of the Earth's surface that are nearly 4 Billion Years old. The case may not be the same on Venus. This evidence suggests an age for the entire surface of Venus of not more than 500 million years!

This evidence suggests that Venus has a completely different cooling history than that of the Earth, and the entire surface is forced to change every few hundred million years or so.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA