Volcanic eruptions could be the source of large changes in the sulphur dioxide levels in the atmosphere of Venus, say scientists studying data from a satellite orbiting the world.
Venus is covered in hundreds of volcanoes, but whether they remain active today is much debated, providing an important scientific goal for researchers studying the planet.
The planet’s thick atmosphere contains over a million times more sulphur dioxide as Earth’s. On our own planet almost all the pungent, toxic gas is generated by volcanic activity.
Most of the sulphur dioxide on Venus is hidden below the planet’s dense upper cloud deck, because the gas is readily destroyed by sunlight.
That means any sulphur dioxide detected in Venus’ upper atmosphere above the cloud deck must have been recently supplied from below.
The European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission has already found clues pointing to volcanism on geologically recent timescales, within the last few hundreds of thousands to millions of years.