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Figure 1. Magellan SAR image of a channel on Venus.
G. Komatsu in collaboration with researchers at Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona have been working on channels and valleys on Venus. The project began with an unexpected discovery of the channels and valleys during the SAR mapping mission by the Magellan spacecraft. Some Venusian channels resemble terrestrial rivers in certain morphological aspects, such as the presence of distributaries, oxbows, and point bars. However, Venus is very dry and liquid water is not stable on the surface. We consider that the Venusian channels formed by lava flows, and in many cases, by very fluid ones.
Figure 2. Longitudinal profile of Baltis Vallis, the longest channel (from Komatsu and Baker, 1994).
A Venusian channel names Baltis Vallis is the longest channel in the Solar System as we know. Its total length 6800 km is 100 km longer than the longest one on Earth, Nile River. Another interesting observation is that its longitudinal profile is heavily deformed, presumably by tectonics.
Figure 3. An example of Venusian valley networks.
The Venusian valleys are also interesting because of their resemblance to terrestrial sapping valleys. We hypothesized that they formed by lava sapping processes in which very fluid lava flows moving through fractures undermine crustal rock and it leads to the collapsing of grounds.
A former Space Grant student Jay Langdon under the supervision of G. Komatsu produced a flyover video of a large Venus channel clusters for a reference book titled "VENUS II" published by the University of Arizona Book Press.
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