Satellite Reveals Venus' Mysterious Night Side


The atmosphere on Venus is a result of "super-rotation" - a phenomenon under which the speed of winds can be noticed faster by up to 60 times that of the planet itself. Although the scientists have successfully explored the dayside of Venus's atmospheric circulation, the night-side of Venus's atmosphere was yet to be explored properly.

"However, our models of Venus are not yet able to reproduce this superprestige, it is clearly evident that we might have missed some parts of this puzzle", says astrophysicist Xavier Peralta from the Japanese aerospace exploration Agency (JAXA). "This study challenges our current understanding of climate modelling and, specifically, the super-rotation, which is a key phenomenon seen at Venus", said Håkan Svedhem, ESA Project Scientist for Venus Express.

These clouds are so thick that they reflect 90% of the sunlight that hits the planet, making Venus a very dark and gloomy world despite it's closer to the sun than Earth. Researchers have tracked this phenomenon - which is known as "super-rotation" - by documenting the movement of glinting clouds floating above the planet's surface.

What's more, the nightside seems to produce large, wavy, and irregular clouds in filament-like patterns that were never seen before on the sunny side. However, before the new research scientists did not know what occurred beneath the cloud cover.

Venus is considered as the slowest turning planet in the solar system as it rotates just once in every 234 Earth days.

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In search for more details into the mysterious dark side of Venus, Peralta and his team used the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on the ESA's Venus Express spacecraft, which orbited the planet between 2006 and 2014.

VIRTIS captured a cube of multiple images at different wavelengths which helped the scientists determine that the night side of the planet has totally different behavior than the bright side. The powerful winds and the corrosive atmosphere is more chaotic and unsafe during the night.

The upper clouds there look different, a study in the journal Nature Astronomy explains: They are big and irregular and they have thread-shaped patterns.

That finding suggests that the planet's topography is affecting elements above the clouds.

A similar connection between stationary waves and topography has been made on the day side of Venus. In the words of Javier Peralta of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the night side of the planet Venus has been studied on a global scale for the very first time and scientists have been able to characterize how the atmosphere circulates on the night side of the planet. The researchers are particularly looking to better understand the wave features in the atmosphere.