New Technique To Forecast Geomagnetic Storms Developed

Here is another example of how the ‘Science Of Cycles’ is used to improve the predictability of celestial events. Earth’s magnetic field extends from pole to pole and is strongly affected by solar wind from the Sun. This “wind” is a stream of charged particles constantly ejected from the Sun’s surface. Occasional sudden flashes of brightness known as solar flares release even more particles into the wind. Sometimes, the flares are followed by coronal mass ejections that send plasma into space.

The resulting flux of charged particles travels millions of miles from the Sun to Earth. When they arrive here, the particles wreak havoc on Earth’s magnetic field. The result can be beautiful but also destructive: auroras and geomagnetic storms. The storms are serious and interfere with a number of important technologies, including GPS signaling and satellite communications. They can also cause damage to surface electrical grids. Solar activity appears random, making it difficult for us to predict these storms.

In the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing, a group of investigators from Europe, led by Reik Donner at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, reports a new method for analyzing magnetic field data that might provide better short-term forecasting of geomagnetic storms. This new method relies on a technique developed for systems in a state far from equilibrium. Earth’s magnetic field fits this paradigm because the field is driven far away from equilibrium by the solar wind. Systems that are far from equilibrium often undergo abrupt changes, such as the sudden transition from a quiescent state to a storm.

The investigators used hourly values of the Disturbance storm-time, or Dst, index. Dst values give the average deviation of the horizontal component of Earth’s magnetic field from its normal value. This deviation occurs when a large burst of charged particles arrives from the Sun and weakens the field generated by Earth. The Dst values form a single stream of numbers known as a time series. The time series data can then be recast into a 2D or 3D image by plotting one data point against another at a fixed amount of time into the future for forecasting.

Here, the authors created a diagram known as a recurrence plot from the reconstructed data. The recurrence plot is an array of dots typically distributed non-uniformly across the graph. The authors used their data to look at a pair of geomagnetic storms that occurred in 2001 from large solar flares a couple of days prior to the storm.

They used a method known as recurrence quantification analysis to show that long diagonal lines in these recurrence plots indicate more predictable geomagnetic behavior. The method reported here is particularly well-suited to distinguish between different types of geomagnetic field fluctuations. The technique allows researchers to characterize these differences with an accuracy not previously achieved.

Science Of Cycles Research

 

JUST IN: Historic Space Weather Could Clarify What’s Next

“Historic space weather may help us understand what’s coming next, according to new research by the University of Warwick.”

Actually, those of you who have followed Earth Changes TV, Earth Changes Media, and Science Of Cycles over the years, know what is mentioned in this ‘new’ research – is anything but ‘new’. Having said this, I am grateful that so many scientists around the world have come to affirm what happens in and around our solar system, does in fact have an influence on our planet Earth and those who reside on it.

Although this research addresses space weather as it relates to the Sun-Earth connection, I can assure you space weather will encompass our solar systems connection to our galaxy Milky Way within the next few years… (wipe smirk off face) however, SOC’s published research is already there – and has been since 2012 as identified in my 2012 updated equation. (see below)

This symbiotic causation is driven by charged particles. It has now become known as “space weather.” My research spans back to 1997, when I began to interview some of the highest esteemed scientists from agencies such as NASA, NOAA, ESA, US Naval Observatory, Royal Observatory – along with several professors from highly qualified universities such as Stanford, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Caltec, and UCLA.

Perhaps the most important word in this ‘new’ research is the word “historic”. This is to say scientists have gathered enough data to observe cycles and patterns. In doing so, the day is inching its way closer to better predict and prepare for mini and mega cycle events. And of course…another way to put it is the “ScienceOfCycles.”

Professor Sandra Chapman, from Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, led a project which charted the space weather in previous solar cycles across the last half century, and discovered an underlying repeatable pattern in how space weather activity changes with the solar cycle.

This exciting research shows that space weather and the activity of the Sun are not entirely random-and may constrain how likely large weather events are in future cycles. This breakthrough will allow better understanding and planning for space weather, and for any future threats it may pose to the Earth.

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Science Of Cycles Research Fund

Science Of Cycles keeps you tuned in and knowledgeable of what we are discovering, and how some of these changes will affect our communities and ways of living.

 

Solar Eruptions May Not Have Slinky-Like Shapes After All

Revisiting some older data, the researchers discovered new information about the shape of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — large-scale eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun — that could one day help protect satellites in space as well as the electrical grid on Earth.

“Since the late 1970s, coronal mass ejections have been assumed to resemble a large Slinky — one of those spring toys — with both ends anchored at the sun, even when they reach Earth about one to three days after they erupt,” said Noe Lugaz, research associate professor in the UNH Space Science Center. “But our research suggests their shapes are possibly different.”

Knowing the shape and size of CMEs is important because it can help better forecast when and how they will impact Earth. While they are one of the main sources for creating beautiful and intense auroras, like the Northern and Southern Lights, they can also damage satellites, disrupt radio communications and wreak havoc on the electrical transmission system causing massive and long-lasting power outages. Right now, only single point measurements exist for CMEs making it hard for scientists to judge their shapes. But these measurements have been helpful to space forecasters, allowing them a 30 to 60 minute warning before impact. The goal is to lengthen that notice time to hours — ideally 24 hours — to make more informed decisions on whether to power down satellites or the grid.

In their study, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the researchers took a closer look at data from two NASA spacecraft, Wind and ACE, typically orbiting upstream of Earth. They analyzed the data of 21 CMEs over a two-year period between 2000 and 2002 when Wind had separated from ACE. Wind had only separated one percent of one astronomical unit (AU), which is the distance from the sun to the Earth (93,000,000 miles). So, instead of now being in front of Earth, with ACE, Wind was now perpendicular to the Sun-Earth line, or on the side.

“Because they are usually so close to one another, very few people compare the data from both Wind and ACE,” said Lugaz. “But 15 years ago, they were apart and in the right place for us to go back and notice the difference in measurements, and the differences became larger with increasing separations, making us question the Slinky shape.”

The data points toward a few other shape possibilities: CMEs are not simple Slinky shapes (they might be deformed ones or something else entirely), or CMEs are Slinky-shaped but on a much smaller scale (roughly four times smaller) than previously thought.

While the researchers say more studies are needed, Lugaz says this information could be important for future space weather forecasting. With other missions being considered by NASA and NOAA, the researchers say this study shows that future spacecraft may first need to investigate how close to the Sun-Earth line they have to remain to make helpful and more advanced forecast predictions.

This research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Is On Its Way To The Sun

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on its way to the Sun.

The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.

“T(his) launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?

Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.

“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.

Solar Probe Set To Launch Into The Sun’s Scorching ‘Red Zone’

On Aug. 6, the Parker Solar Probe will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for one extremely intense mission: to fly closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before.

The probe will fly through and study the sun’s atmosphere, where it will face punishing heat and radiation. At its closest, it will come within 6.1 million kilometres of the Sun.

“A lot of people don’t think that’s particularly close,” said Nicola Fox, the project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe. “But if I put the Sun and the Earth in the end zones in a football field, the Parker Solar Probe will be on the four-yard line in the red zone, knocking on the door for a touchdown.”

Named after astrophysicist Eugene Parker — the first living researcher to receive such an honour — the probe will travel in the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona. Because it isn’t very dense, the corona is difficult to study. The only time we can see it is during a solar eclipse, or with a specially made instrument called a coronagraph, which blocks out the Sun’s light.

While the Sun is vital to our existence, it’s not really our ally. It is a roiling, churning ball of gas and charged particles that generates a solar wind that influences our planet — and not always in a good way.

Solar flares are one example. These eruptions occur in cooler regions of the sun, called sunspots. Just like Earth, the sun has a magnetic field. But unlike Earth, different regions of the Sun rotate at different speeds. This can cause magnetic loops to become tangled. After twisting tighter and tighter, the stored energy is released as a solar flare.

These are often followed by coronal mass ejections, where charged particles (plasma) erupt and travel at increased speeds along the solar wind.

These events can cause radio blackouts and even knock out power grids. One of the most well known is the power outage that left six million people shivering in the dark in Quebec in March 1989.

“It’s of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict space weather much like we predict weather here on Earth,” said Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., during a news conference Friday.

With the Parker Solar Probe mission, scientists want to better understand these phenomena: the sun’s corona, magnetic field, solar flares and the wildly fast solar wind.

“The solar wind goes from a steady breeze to a supersonic flow from the corona to millions of miles an hour,” Young said. “So why does this happen? What is going on here?”

The way the sun works is counterintuitive.

“It’s a very strange, unfamiliar environment for us. We’re used to the idea that, if I’m standing next to a campfire and I walk away from it, it gets cooler. But this is not what happens on the sun,” Young said. “As we go from the surface of the sun, which is 10,000 degrees, and quickly move up into the corona, we find ourselves quickly at millions of degrees.

This mystery “drives not only how this star works, our sun, but also all the stars in the universe,” Young said.

Why it won’t melt
Clearly, a spacecraft the size of a small car flying that close to the sun needs some serious protection.

The Parker Solar Probe actually won’t be facing the million-degree temperatures that the sun generates. It’s important to note there is a difference between temperature and heat. Temperature measures how fast particles are moving, while heat measures the total amount of energy that is transferred. The particles may be moving fast but if there are few of them they won’t transfer that heat.

Scientists explain it this way: It’s the difference between putting your hand in an oven (not touching anything) and in a pot of hot water. Your hand would burn in the water because it is in contact with many more particles compared to in the oven, where it could withstand the same temperature for a longer duration.

Since the sun’s corona isn’t very dense, the spacecraft won’t be interacting with many particles.

That being said, it will still have to endure temperatures near 1,400 C.

For that, it is equipped with a white ceramic shield — built out of reinforced carbon and carbon foam — that will only ever face the sun.The solar arrays that provide power to the probe retract upon each close approach, so little is exposed to the sun’s powerful rays, while a cooling system also helps to prevent the spacecraft from frying.

It takes eight minutes for the sun’s light to reach us, and the same goes for any message from the probe. Being so close to the sun, the autonomous spacecraft needs to be able to make quick decisions.

Getting there
If all goes well, the Parker Solar Probe will launch on Aug. 6 and arrive safely on Nov. 1. It will then begin its 88-day orbit of the sun that will take it out past Venus. At its closest approach, which will be in 2024, it will be travelling 692,000 km/h.

The probe will complete 24 orbits with seven gravity assists around Venus that will help it pick up speed.

This isn’t the first mission to study the sun. NASA has launched several, including the ongoing Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

Two other spacecraft have had close flybys, though not nearly as close as the Parker Solar Probe’s route. In 1974, Helios 1 passed within 45 million kilometres of the sun’s surface, and Helios 2 within 43.4 million kilometres two years later.

“We’ve done so much science by looking at the star. We’ve looked at it every single different way you can imagine. We’ve looked at it in every wavelength, we’ve travelled in beyond the orbit of Mercury even,” Fox said.

“But we need to get into this action region. Into this region where all these mysteries are really occurring. And that’s why we’re doing this kind of daring journey.”

Solar Flares Disrupted Radio Communications During September 2017 Atlantic Hurricanes

An unlucky coincidence of space and Earth weather in early September 2017 caused radio blackouts for hours during critical hurricane emergency response efforts, according to a new study in Space Weather, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The new research, which details how the events on the Sun and Earth unfolded side-by-side, could aid in the development of space weather forecasting and response, according to the study’s authors.

On September 6, three hurricanes advanced in a menacing line across the Atlantic Ocean. Category 5 Hurricane Irma ravaged Barbuda in the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands in the early morning and churned onward to St. Marin, St. Barthelemy, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands, causing massive damage. Tropical Storm Katia hovered in the Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Storm Jose approached from the open ocean. Both were upgraded to hurricane status later that day.

On the surface of the Sun, 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away, another storm was brewing. A class X-2.2 and major class X-9.3 solar flare erupted on the morning of September 6 at about 8 a.m. local time. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center warned of a strong radio blackout over most the sunlit side of Earth, including the Caribbean.

Amateur radio operators assisting with emergency communications in the islands reported to the Hurricane Watch Net that radio communications went down for most of the morning and early afternoon on September 6 because of the Sun’s activity, according to the new study. French civil aviation reported a 90-minute loss of communication with a cargo plane, according to the study’s authors, and NOAA reported on September 14 that high frequency radio, used by aviation, maritime, ham radio, and other emergency bands, was unavailable for up to eight hours on September 6.

Another large class-X flare erupted from the Sun on September 10, disrupting radio communication for three hours. The disruption came as the Caribbean community coped with Category 4 Hurricane Jose’s brush with the Leeward Islands and the Bahamas, and Irma’s passage over Little Inagua in the Bahamas on September 8 and passage over Cuba on September 9.

“Space weather and Earth weather aligned to heighten an already tense situation in the Caribbean,” said Rob Redmon, a space scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado, and the lead author of the new study. “If I head on over to my amateur radio operator, and they have been transmitting messages for me, whether it be for moving equipment or finding people or just saying I’m okay to somebody else, suddenly I can’t do that on this day, and that would be pretty stressful.”

Bobby Graves, an experienced ham radio operator who manages the Hurricane Watch Net from his home near Jackson, Mississippi, said the flares caused communications to go down for hours. The Hurricane Watch Net is a group of licensed amateur radio operators trained and organized to provide communications support to the National Hurricane Center during storm emergencies.

“You can hear a solar flare on the air as it’s taking place. It’s like hearing bacon fry in a pan, it just all of a sudden gets real staticky and then it’s like someone just turns the light completely off, you don’t hear anything. And that’s what happened this last year on two occasions,” Graves said. “We had to wait ’til the power of those solar flares weakened so that our signals could actually bounce back off the atmosphere. It was a helpless situation.”

The new study detailing the activity on the Sun and its effects on radio communications from September 4 — 13 serves as an overview to a collection of journal articles in Space Weather investigating the solar activity of September 2017. The collision of Earth and space weather in September delivered a reminder that solar events can happen at any time and may coincide with other emergencies, according to the study’s authors.

The information in the study could help scientists improve space weather forecasting and response, according to the study’s authors. By understanding how the events on the Sun and Earth unfolded, scientists can better understand how to forecast and prepare for future events, they said.

The new study shows the solar flares affected shortwave radio communications, which were being used by amateurs and professionals in emergency response efforts, although it does not detail how emergency efforts may have been affected by the radio blackout.

“Safeguards put in place to prevent dangerous disruption to GPS from solar events worked,” said Mike Hapgood, head of space weather at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, and a scientist not connected to the new study. “In many ways, we were ready. Some things that could have caused big problems didn’t, but shortwave radio is always tricky to use during solar events. But good radio operators are aware of the events and will work hard to overcome problems.”

“It’s the Sun reminding us that it’s there,” Hapgood added. “The Sun’s been very quiet for the last 10 years. It reminds people not to be complacent.”

Unexpected space weather

The 2017 flares were the largest since 2005 and the best documented solar storm to date, observed from a fleet of spacecraft between the Earth and the Sun, in Earth’s orbit, on Earth and Mars.

Solar flares release bursts of X-rays from the Sun that travel outwards in all directions at the speed of light. Strong flares can disrupt radio and aviation communications. Space weather forecasters have only minutes to broadcast warnings to spacecraft, aviation and other administrators before affects are felt on Earth.

X-rays from solar flares interact with Earth’s atmosphere 50-1000 kilometers (30-600 miles) above the Earth, in a region called the ionosphere. Shortwave radio communication works by bouncing signals off the ionosphere and refracting them back to Earth. When the Sun releases a burst of x-rays, like the flares released in early September, the extra energy delivered to the ionosphere can cause it to absorb high frequency radio signals, like those used by ham radio enthusiasts.

The September 6 and 10 flares were also accompanied by bursts of high energy solar material explosively ejected from the Sun in an expanding bubble much larger than the Earth. Such coronal mass ejections, which arrive within one to three days, have the potential to wreck the most havoc on human technology. The geomagnetic storms generated by coronal mass ejections can damage power grids, confuse GPS systems and damage or disrupt communication with spacecraft, including weather satellites.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued warnings for potentially severe geomagnetic storms for September 7-9.

An unlucky coincidence

The unexpected burst of space weather coincided with high hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean.

Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record with sustained winds of 287 kilometers per hour (175 miles per hour), hit the tiny island of Barbuda at maximum intensity, razing 95 percent of its buildings. The storm destroyed most homes and much infrastructure on St. Martin, Anguilla, Great Inagua and Crooked Island in the Bahamas, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. It caused power outages and damage in the Cuban Keys, Turks and Caicos and the southeastern United States. Wind and rain from the storm killed 37 people in the Caribbean and 10 on the U.S. mainland, according the National Hurricane Center.

During the September crisis, the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net logged many “radiograms” relaying survival notes between anxious family members on the islands and the mainland via ham radio operators, Redmon said.

“Seeing that logbook really brought home to me the human dimension of the storm,” Redmon said. “It put the humanity in the science.”

Ham radio hobbyists routinely volunteer to disseminate hazard information from the National Weather Service to island communities and ships during major storms, report real-time ground conditions and damages back to the National Hurricane Center, and assist the Red Cross with communications.

Graves, the ham radio operator, said many people trapped by storms appreciate hearing a friendly voice over amateur radio relaying the latest weather update, even if they are not able to reply. During a storm, ham radio volunteers strain to listen for lone stations in the affected area that may still be transmitting, Graves said.

“A lot of folks in the area were asking us: We heard there’s Jose coming behind Irma, what’s this thing going to do?” he said.

Weird Volcanoes Are Erupting Across the Solar System

NASA’s Juno spacecraft recently spotted a possible new volcano at the south pole of Jupiter’s most lava-licious moon, Io. But this volcanically active moon is not alone in the solar system, where sizzling-hot rocks explode and ooze onto the surface of several worlds. So how do Earthly volcanoes differ from those erupting across the rest of the solar system?

Let’s start with Io. The moon is famous for its hundreds of volcanoes, including fountains that sometimes spurt lava dozens of miles above the surface, according to NASA. This Jupiter moon is constantly re-forming its surface through volcanic eruptions, even to this day. Io’s volcanism results from strong gravitational encounters between Jupiter and two of its large moons, Europa and Ganymede, which shake up Io’s insides.

Rosaly Lopes, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed observations of Io between 1996 and 2001, during the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter.

“Io has lots of caldera-like features, but they are on the surface,” Lopes told Live Science. “There are lots of lava flows and lots of lakes. Lava lakes are pretty rare on Earth. We have half a dozen of them. We think they have occurred in the past on Venus and Mars. But on Io, we actually see lava lakes at the present time.” Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is one such spot on Earth dotted with lava lakes. [Photos: Fiery Lava from Kilauea Volcano Erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island]

Juno scientists asked for Lopes’ help in identifying Io’s newly found hotspot. She said the new observations of Io are welcome, because Galileo was in an equatorial orbit and could rarely see the poles; by contrast, Juno is in a polar orbit and has a much better view. There are some hints that Io might have larger and less-frequent eruptions at the poles, she said, but scientists need more observations to be sure.

Venus and Mars volcanoes are all right tonight
Venus also appears to have active lava flows on its surface, where temperatures reach more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit (425 degrees Celsius). The few Soviet Venera spacecraft that landed there in the 1970s and 1980s lasted only a short while. Lopes said it’s unclear if Venus has active volcanoes currently, although multiple observations from Europe’s past Venus Express mission suggested it might. One example is Idunn Mons, which is a hotspot that may have erupted relatively recently.

Venus has dome volcanoes, or volcanoes with lots of peaks, although these volcanoes might be inactive. This kind of volcano is also common on Earth. A dome volcano is formed from eruptions of viscous (sticky) lava, with only a small percentage of gas that oozes out.

“Volcanologists call it two-face lava, because it hides itself and oozes out,” Lopes said. Mount St. Helens, in Washington state, is one such example, with several of these lava domes dotting its crater. Venus is also populated with other types of volcanoes and volcanic features — pancake domes (which look like pancakes), arachnoids (eroded calderas that look like spiders), lava flows and volcanic plains.

Venus and Mars also have shield volcanoes, a type of volcano made up almost entirely of fluid lava flows. (Shield volcanoes are common on Earth, in Hawaii in particular, Lopes said.) Mars possesses the highest volcano in the solar system — Olympus Mons — and several other monster volcanoes, perhaps because its gravity is lighter than Earth’s and the volcanoes can grow taller.

On Mars, the volcanoes appear to be dormant, as there are no visible recent lava flows on the surface. There’s extensive evidence of past volcanism, though. There are flood plains of basalts, as well as other types of volcanoes that “were formed by more explosive volcanism, because they are highly eroded on the flanks,” Lopes said.

Other worlds in our solar system also had lava volcanism in the ancient past, including Earth’s moon, Mercury and the dwarf planet Ceres, Lopes said. And then there are worlds with possible cryovolcanism — or icy volcanoes — in which the erupting material is water, or water mixed with nitrogen or methane.

There is evidence of active plumes at Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Saturn’s moon Titan may also have past cryovolcanic features on its surface, Lopes’ research has found. Other worlds with possible cryovolcanism include Triton (Neptune’s largest moon), Pluto, and Charon (Pluto’s largest moon).