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December 5 2012

Have venusian volcanoes been caught in the act?

Six years of observations by the European Space Agencyís (ESA) Venus Express have shown large changes in the sulfur dioxide content of the planetís atmosphere, and one intriguing possible explanation is volcanic eruptions.

The thick atmosphere of Venus contains more than a million times as much sulfur dioxide as Earthís, where almost all of the pungent toxic gas is generated by volcanic activity.

Most of the sulfur dioxide on Venus is hidden below the planetís dense upper cloud deck because the gas is readily destroyed by sunlight. That means any sulfur dioxide detected in Venusí upper atmosphere above the cloud deck must have been recently supplied from below.

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