Magellan “Venusquake” evidence reconsidered


  • Stephen Cole


What initially appeared to be a remarkable discovery by NASA's Magellan radar mapping mission—direct visual evidence of active tectonics on Venus—may actually have been distortion in the data and not an actual change on the planet's surface, according to mission scientists. At a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on August 30, project scientist Steve Saunders presented two radar images of the same region in Aphrodite Terra, taken eight months apart, that showed a change in the topography. A fracture in the earlier image appeared covered with a broad bright patch in the second image. The patch was interpreted as being a landslide caused by a “Venusquake” that had occurred sometime between the two flyovers of the area by the Magellan spacecraft.