Corona Formation on Venus Via Extension and Lithospheric Instability

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Danielle Piskorz, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States, Linda T Elkins-Tanton, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States and Suzanne E Smrekar, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Given the absence of plate tectonics on Venus, the origin of major rift systems like Parga Chasma is unclear. As Venus and Earth have similar radii and radiogenic abundances, we assume they have a similar internal structure and composition. Venus does not appear to have plate tectonics, and its surface displays a range of volcanic and tectonic features, including those that are both similar and dissimilar to those on Earth.

In order to understand how Venus loses its heat, we study coronae at Parga Chasma. There are over 500 quasi-circular volcano-tectonic features called coronae on Venus, 131 of which are associated with Parga Chasma. Are these coronae important in the formation of the rift, or vice versa? How do they contribute to planetary heat loss? Coronae are believed to form via small-scale mantle upwellings, lithospheric instability, or a combination thereof. However, the genetic link between the coronae and rifts has remained unclear.

By drawing an analogy to the East African Rift, we propose a mechanism for the formation of off-rift coronae due to the rifting process. We model the interaction of a rising mantle plume associated with a rift with a preexisting layer of dense material at the lithosphere-mantle boundary and show that a rift and its associated off-rift coronae may be genetically linked. We calculate the resulting surface topographies, melt volumes, and Bouguer gravity anomalies and find a correlation to observations.