NASA’s Veritas science team is studying volcanic Iceland

While flying a Dornier 228-212 aircraft of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) at an altitude of about 20,000 feet (6,000 m) above the ground, an S-band synthetic aperture radar (radio waves with a wavelength of about 12 centimeters, or 4.7 inches) collected ) and the X range (about 3 centimeters) or 1.2 inches) of the data. The shorter wavelength of X-band data — the radio frequency that VERITAS will use — allows for the use of a more compact antenna than the S-band, which NASA’s Magellan mission used to map almost the entire surface of Venus in the early 1990s.

By observing the surface in both ranges in Iceland, the science team will improve computer algorithms that will help Veritas determine surface changes on Venus that have occurred since the Magellan mission. Detecting changes over the past 40 years will allow them to identify major areas of geological activity (such as active volcanoes) on Venus.

The main goal of the campaign was also to create a model library of as many volcanic surface tissues in Iceland as possible to better understand the range of eruption patterns on Venus. A field team from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) also collected compositional information using a camera simulating the Venus Emission Mapper (VEM) instrument that the DLR is building for VERITAS. This data will support the spectral library being built at the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory in Berlin.

“The various surface characteristics and features seen on Venus are related to volcanic processes, which are linked to the interior of Venus,” Smrekar said. “This data will be valuable to VERITAS to help us understand Venus better. It will also help ESA’s EnVision mission, which will study the surface of Venus using S-band radar, and the community at large that wants to understand radar observations of volcanic planetary surfaces.”

But Nunes said the value of Iceland’s two-week campaign went beyond science, providing a team-building opportunity that will resonate for years to come. “It was a great dynamic,” he added. “We pushed hard and helped each other out. From borrowing equipment to driving to study sites and purchasing supplies, everyone stepped up to make it happen.

More about the mission

The VERITAS mission and NASA’s 2021 Deep Venus Atmospheric Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission under NASA’s Exploration Program have been selected as the agency’s next two missions to Venus. VERITAS partners include Lockheed Martin Space, the Italian Space Agency, DLR, and the National Center for Space Studies in France. The Discovery Program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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