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No. 73: Jan-Feb 1991

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Venus Too Pristine

In the November 16 issue of Science, R.A. Kerr remarks:

"The planetary geologists who are studying the radar images streaming back from Magellan [the space probe] find that they have an enigma on their hands. When they read the geological clock that tells them how old the Venusian surface is, they find a planet on the brink of adolescence. But when they look at the surface itself, they see a newborn babe."
(Kerr, Richard A.; "Venus Is Looking Too Pristine," Science, 250:913, 1990.)

Comment. Of the 75 craters mapped so far by Magellan, only one shows any signs of aging; i.e., tectonic movements, lava-filling, etc. The surface of Venus should be hundreds of millions of years old, yet it looks freshly minted. The anticipated spectrum of degradation has not yet been seen.

One theory is that recent lava flooding erased the old craters, and we now see only recent impact scars. But why would a planet's volcanism turn off so completely and so abruptly? Our earth, Venus' sister planet in many ways, still perks away, leaving craters of various ages. Why is Venus so different? One idea not advanced by Kerr in Science is that Venus might be a recently acquired member of the solar system!

From Science Frontiers #73, JAN-FEB 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987