EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Thermal evolution and interior structure of Venus

Ana-Catalina Plesa1, Michaela Walterová1, Julia Maia2, Iris van Zelst1, and Doris Breuer1
Ana-Catalina Plesa et al.
  • 1Institute of Planetary Research, German Aerospace Center (DLR)
  • 2Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Laboratoire Lagrange, Université Côte d’Azur, Nice, France

The dense atmosphere of Venus and the planet’s young surface, dominated by volcanic features, bear witness to its past and potentially ongoing volcanic activity. While unique among the terrestrial planets of our Solar System, Venus is likely similar to a myriad of extrasolar worlds [1]. Thus, investigating Venus’s interior structure, thermal history, and magmatic processes may guide our understanding of the evolution and present-day state of an entire class of exoplanets.

The present-day geodynamic regime of Venus’s mantle is still debated, but models agree that magmatism played a major role in shaping the atmosphere and surface that we observe today [2]. In this contribution we will summarize the evidence for recent and possibly ongoing magmatic activity in the interior of Venus and show how we can combine current and future observations with thermal evolution models to constrain the planet’s present-day interior structure, dynamics, and magmatic activity. 

We calculate the tidal deformation and moment of inertia in our models to provide estimates on deep interior parameters. While the tidal Love number k2, which is sensitive to the size and state of the core, has been determined from Magellan and Pioneer Venus Orbiter tracking data with large uncertainties [3], the phase lag of the deformation, whose value is particularly sensitive to the thermal state of the interior, has not yet been measured. A rough estimate of the core size of 3500 km with large (>500 km) uncertainties comes from the moment of inertia factor that was determined from Earth-based radar observations [4].  

Our models address the recent volcanic activity that was suggested by several observations [e.g., 5]. In particular, we focus on investigating the constraints coming from estimates of the elastic lithosphere thickness, which is linked to the thermal state of the lithosphere at the time of the formation of geological features. Gravity and topography analyses indicate small elastic thicknesses for a variety of locations including coronae [6], steep-sided domical volcanoes [7], and crustal plateaus [8]. The young age of many surface features on Venus suggests a warm lithosphere at present-day, potentially linked to partial melting in the interior. Moreover, a recent study found that the inferred heat flux at 75 locations on Venus associated with recent volcanic and tectonic activity is similar to the values measured on Earth in areas of active extension [9].  

Future measurements of the NASA VERITAS and ESA EnVision missions aim to constrain present-day volcanic and tectonic activity as well as the thickness of major layers (crust, mantle, and core) in the interior of Venus. These measurements will provide unprecedented information to address the interior structure and thermal history of our neighbor, who can teach us about the diversity of evolutionary paths that rocky planets around other stars might have followed.

[1] Kane et al., 2019. [2] Rolf et al., 2022. [3] Konopliv and Yodder, 1996. [4] Margot et al., 2021. [5] Smrekar et al., 2010. [6] O’Rourke & Smrekar, 2018. [7] Borrelli et al., 2021. [8] Maia and Wieczorek, 2022. [9] Smrekar et al., 2022. 

How to cite: Plesa, A.-C., Walterová, M., Maia, J., van Zelst, I., and Breuer, D.: Thermal evolution and interior structure of Venus, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8996,, 2023.