Something’s moving on Venus. Scientists know the planet doesn’t have plate tectonics like Earth, but recent research has discovered some chunks of rock that have visibly moved, hinting at something interesting going on below the planet's surface.
By re-analyzing data from the Magellan spacecraft (which visited Venus all the way back in the 1990s!), these researchers found regions called “campi” on the surface of Venus. Like chunks of ice floating on our oceans, campi are large, flat hunks of rock atop Venus’s molten mantle. They move around, dragging through surrounding rock and scarring the landscape, making marks visible in images.
So why should you care about jiggling rocks? Paul Byrne, one of the astronomers leading this study, tweeted that that “modern Venus might also hold clues to early Earth...and Venus might also tell us what to expect on planets that are Earth-sized — which basically means Venus-sized — orbiting other stars.” Looking at our sister planet can tell us more about how planets, including our own, work. Also, these investigations can hopefully answer the question of why Venus is so unpleasant while Earth is habitable and teeming with life.
With multiple missions to Venus coming up — DAVINCI+, VERITAS, and EnVision — scientists are eager to take a closer look at the surface, including these intriguing moving rocks.