The surface of Venus is cracked and moves like ice floating on the ocean, likely because of tectonic activity.

Iran PressSci & Tech: With its thick, toxic atmosphere and temperatures hot enough to melt lead, Venus seems like a dead planet.

New research, however, suggests the planet could still be geologically active.

And the kind of activity taking place on Venus could provide scientists with a better idea of what's happening on planets outside of our solar system -- as well as what took place on early Earth, CNN reported.

A new analysis of radar images taken by NASA's Magellan mission, which mapped the surface of Venus in the early 1990s, revealed evidence of tectonic motion. This motion on the Venusian surface looks like blocks of crust that have moved against one another, much like broken chunks of pack ice. Pack ice are the large pieces of floating ice that can be seen in a mass together in polar seas, like the waters around Antarctica.

The study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We've identified a previously unrecognized pattern of tectonic deformation on Venus, one that is driven by interior motion just like on Earth," said Paul Byrne, lead study author and associate professor of planetary science at North Carolina State University, in a statement.

"Although different from the tectonics we currently see on Earth, it is still evidence of interior motion being expressed at the planet's surface," Bryne said.

Previously, scientists believed Venus had an immovable solid outer shell, called a lithosphere, similar to Mars or our moon.

Earth is unique because its lithosphere is broken, forming tectonic plates that move against, apart or underneath one another on top of a hot mantle.

When Byrne and his fellow researchers studied the Magellan images taken of the Venusian lowlands, which make up the bulk of Venus' surface, they saw areas where large pieces of the lithosphere appeared to have moved. The blocks had pulled apart, pushed together, slid past each other and rotated -- much like broken pack ice.

The researchers modeled this surface deformation and determined that these tectonics actually match the slow movement of the planet's interior.

The European Space Agency will send EnVision to observe Venus and reveal any connections between its atmosphere and geologic processes, as well as investigate the planet's mysterious history.


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