Shop Windows to the Universe

The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This is an image of Venus.
Click on image for full size
NASA

Does Venus Have a Surface in Motion?

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.

Evidence comes from the number of craters found on the surface. 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. Craters are wiped out when the surface of a planet moves.

The cratering record of Venus is *very* peculiar in that

  • all surfaces are evenly cratered
  • the number of craters is roughly the same as that of the Earth at present.
  • the number of craters suggests an age for the surface of Venus of not more than 500 million years! (There are areas of Earth that are very much older.)
Features which suggest a lithosphere in motion are present, but few on Venus. 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!


Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes books on science education, ranging from evolution, classroom research, and the need for science and math literacy!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more

Does Mars have a surface in Motion?

Unlike Earth, there is no continental drift on Mars today. The Martian surface does not seem to have changed or moved in billions of years. The evidence for this fact can be found in two ways. 1.) The...more

Venus Global Geography

This is a map of the surface of Venus (turned sideways!). As can be seen on the map, the surface of Venus consists of 2 large continents with mountain ranges, and a few large islands. There are many craters,...more

The Earliest History of Venus

As the process which formed them came to an end, the planets may have been left in either of the following two states: very warm, separated into layers, with lots of water on the surface, with volcanic...more

The Pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9

The pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 received names! However not all of the segments were detected, and some sections broke apart into two or more pieces after the original piece had been named. These...more

What causes a Planet's surface to change its appearance?

Over the course of time there are many things which can cause the surface of a planet to change its appearance. winds, as shown in the example from the Martian surface Monument Valley on Earth is an example...more

Venus Cratered Terrain

This is an example of cratered ground on Venus. Venusian craters are a little unusual in that there is a large amount of melted ground around the crater. This may mean that when something hits the surface...more

Do Other Planets have a surface in Motion?

Let's look at the evidence: Mercury Venus The Moon Mars Io Europa Ganymede Callisto Triton Miranda What about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Titan, or Pluto? These planets or moons either have no surface,...more

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