Venus’ massively cracked surface suggests it experiences quakes

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


The big idea

Much of the brittle, upper crust of Venus is broken into fragments that jostle and move – and the slow churning of Venus’ mantle beneath the surface might be responsible. My colleagues and I arrived at this finding using decades-old radar data to explore how the surface of Venus interacts with the interior of the planet. We describe it in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on June 21, 2021.

Planetary scientists like me have long known that Venus has a plethora of tectonic landforms. Some of these formations are long, thin belts where the crust has been pushed together to form ridges or pulled apart to form troughs and grooves. In many of these belts there’s evidence that pieces of the crust have moved side to side, too.

Our new study shows, for the first time, that these bands of ridges and troughs often mark the boundaries of flat, low-lying areas that themselves show relatively little deformation and are individual blocks of Venus’ crust that have shifted, rotated and slid past each other over time – and may have done so in the recent past. It’s a little like Earth’s plate tectonics but on a smaller scale and more closely resembles pack ice that floats atop the ocean.