Scientists Discover Thousands of Previously Unknown Volcanoes on Venus

Scientists using new methods to analyze decades-old data from the Magellan spacecraft have revealed 50 times more volcanoes on Venus than previously thought. The paper, published in the journal JGR Planets, brings the total number of volcanoes on the second planet to over 85,000.

Planetary scientists Rebecca M. Hahn and Paul K. Bryne discovered that most of the volcanoes on Venus are under five kilometers in diameter and are unmapped. Their paper’s abstract points out that these small volcanoes dotted “virtually the entire planet.”

“We [now] have a better handle of how many volcanoes are on Venus than are on Earth,” Byrne told Science News.

Scientists working on upcoming NASA and ESA missions to Venus could use this map to discover recent volcanic activity. Map: R. HAHN AND P. BYRNE/JGR PLANETS 2023


That’s because Earth’s oceans and trees tend to hide non-active volcanoes, particularly small ones. Venus, of course, has none of those things.

It took improved technology and a pair of dedicated scientists to comb through the Magellan imagery and pick the small volcanoes out of the visual clutter on the planet’s surface.

The ancient past meets the near future

While the number of total volcanoes on Venus far outstrips those found on Earth, the number of currently active volcanoes on the second planet is unknown and is likely to be very small. By contrast, the United States Geological Survey pegs the number of active volcanoes on Earth at 1,350. It’s a matter of plate tectonics, which the Earth has, but Venus doesn’t (at least not in the same way).

But our lack of knowledge about currently active Venusian volcanoes could soon change. Using the same Magellan imagery as the scientists in this story, a different team of researchers discovered evidence of recent volcanic activity on Venus. And with Hahn and Bryne’s new map, the teams running forthcoming NASA and European Space Agency Venus missions might know where to point the spacecraft’s sensitive equipment.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).