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Magellan Spacecraft Discovers 4,200-Mile Channel on Venus

From Times Wire Services

The Magellan spacecraft has discovered a geological groove on the surface of Venus that is longer than the Nile River, NASA reported Thursday.

Scientists at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said they do not know what formed the channel, which measures about 1 mile across and runs for about 4,200 miles in a winding, smoothly curved course.

“The very existence of such a long channel is a great puzzle. If the long channel were carved by something flowing on the surface, the liquid must have had unusual properties,” said Steve Saunders, the project’s scientist.

The channel was detected by the imaging radar Magellan is using to map Venus, which is obscured from view by thick, yellowish clouds.

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Shorter channels have been seen on many plains on other parts of Venus, some of which terminate in lava flows that suggest they were carved out by lava from a volcanic eruption.

But Saunders said it is unlikely that lava, even at very high temperatures, would have the very high rate of flow needed to form the newly discovered channel.

No similar channels are known to exist on Earth, NASA said.


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