The Night Side Of Venus Reveals Even More Mysteries

the night side of a dark planet against a star

Scientists have taken their first close look at the mysterious night side of Venus.

For the first time, scientists have been able to make detailed observations of the mysterious night side of Venus. The planet rotates very slowly, just once every 234 Earth days. This leaves half of the planet’s surface shrouded in darkness for extended periods of time.

Scientists have studied extensively the wind and weather patterns of the day side, where wind speeds reach up to 60 times the planet’s rotation speed. This ‘super-rotation’, as it is being called, can be observed by tracking cloud movements on the day side of this world. However, current models have been unable to fully account for this phenomenon. In turn, this led scientists to the conclusion that they are missing some information.

The Mysterious Night Side of Venus, Slightly Better Understood

The night side of the planet has remained poorly understood, but a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy may improve our understanding of these phenomena.

Using the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer or VIRTIS, on the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft, researchers have been able to take a closer look at the mysterious night side of Venus. They managed to study the wind and cloud patterns on this side of the planet. Rather than snapping single images, VIRTIS was able to simultaneously capture hundreds of images. These were snapped at different wavelengths and helped improve the visibility of the cloud layers.

These observations have revealed new cloud types, morphologies, and dynamics. The dark side seems to be home to large, wavy, irregular clouds formed by stationary waves. These are undulations generated in the lower atmosphere that do not move with the planet’s rotation. These waves are concentrated over mountainous areas. They seem to suggest that the surface topography is affecting wind and cloud patterns in the atmosphere.

This new study challenges the previous understanding of super-rotation and the modeling of climate and weather on Venus. Complementary observations from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akatsuki mission are expected to shed further light on the mysteries in the clouds on both sides of Earth’s sister planet.

Image Source: Wikimedia


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