Venus in UV

Akatsuki in Japanese means Dawn in English. It’s the name of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spacecraft studying the atmosphere of Venus. When it was launched aboard an H-IIA 202 rocket on 20 May 2010, it failed to enter orbit around Venus. The probe orbited the Sun for five years before engineers successfully placed it into an alternative Venusian elliptic orbit in late 2015. It’s the first Japanese satellite orbiting Venus. The image above was made by the spacecraft’s UV camera.

Image Credit: JAXA

Natural Radio Emissions from Venus

During a flyby of Venus, the Parker Solar Probe detected a natural radio signal as it flew through the planet’s upper atmosphere. This was the first direct measurement of the planet’s ionosphere in nearly 30 years, and the difference between this recent data and earlier measurements suggest that Venus’ upper atmosphere undergoes changes during the 11-year solar cycle.

The data sonification in the video is derived from data taken by the Parker Solar Probe’s FIELDS instrument.

Video Credit: NASA

And Now For Something Completely Different

Mars is a much more hospitable neighbor than Venus, so we’ve sent a lot more mission there. Pictures taken by rovers on the planet’s surface are not uncommon these days. Gentle Reader, when was the last time you saw a picture taken on the surface of Venus?This was taken by Venera 14, a robotic Soviet lander which parachuted and air-braked down through the thick Venusian atmosphere in March, 1982. The desolate landscape it saw included flat rocks, vast empty terrain, and a featureless sky above the landing site near Venus’ equator. The climate on Venus is very inhospitable with temperatures hot enough to melt lead (near 450 C) and pressures 75 times that on Earth. The instruments on Venera 14 lasted only about an hour.

Image Credit: Soviet Planetary Exploration Program

Approaching Venus

Global_dynamics_of_Venus_northern_hemisphere_node_full_imageYes, tomorrow’s the day for Perseverance to be landing on Mars, but that shouldn’t stop up us from taking a look at our closer neighbor Venus. This false-colour movie was put together using ultraviolet images taken by the Venus Monitoring Camera on board ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft on 22 May, 2006. The spacecraft was flying over the northern hemisphere at distances ranging between about 39,100 and 22,600 km from the surface.

Video Credit: ESA

Our First Close Look at Venus

Mariner10_Venus47 years ago today, Mariner 10 took this first close-up photo of Venus.

The original image was taken using an ultraviolet filter. This photo has been color-enhanced to show the planet’s cloudy atmosphere as the human eye would see it. Venus’ atmosphere is rich in carbon dioxide and is perpetually blanketed by a thick veil of clouds. Its surface temperature approaches 900 °F.

Mariner 10 flew by Venus in 1974.

Image Credit: NASA

A Glory on Venus

Venus_glory_largeA rainbow-like feature known as a “glory” has been seen by ESA’s Venus Express orbiter in the atmosphere of our nearest planetary neighbor—the first time one has been fully imaged on another planet.

Rainbows and glories occur when sunlight shines on cloud droplets—water particles here on Earth. While rainbows arch across the sky, glories are typically much smaller and are made up of a series of coloured concentric rings centred on a bright core. Glories are only seen when the observer is situated directly between the Sun and the cloud particles that are reflecting sunlight. On Earth, they are often seen from aircraft, surrounding the shadow of the aircraft on the clouds below.

In order for a glory to occur, the particles must be spherical and the same size. The atmosphere of Venus is thought to contain droplets rich in sulphuric acid.

Mission scientists at ESA hoped to find a glory in the atmosphere of Venus by imaging the clouds with the Sun directly behind the Venus Express spacecraft. They were successful. The glory in this image was seen at the Venus cloud tops, 70 km above the planet’s surface. It is 1,200 km wide as seen from the spacecraft, 6,000 km away.

Image Credit: ESA

Venus in Infrared

Venus in IR_AkatsukiJAXA, the Japanese space agency, has a satellite orbiting Venus. Akatsuki took this photo of cloud patterns on the nightside of Venus from a distance of about 100,000 kilometers. The camera used sees at a wavelength of 2.26 microns, a wavelength at which the planet’s hot lower atmosphere radiates. This infrared light is blocked by clouds in some places but not others, silhouetting the clouds. Combining this data with data from other wavelengths and more images taken over time, Akatsuki scientists hope to watch the three-dimensional motion of Venus’ atmosphere.

Image Credit: JAXA

Five Planets

five_planets_chartFrom now until around Feb. 20, pre-dawn stargazers will stand a good chance of seeing all five planets known to ancient astronomers simultaneously: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Those planets should be visible to the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars may be necessary to pull Mercury out of the pre-dawn sky glow from the Sun.

Jupiter will rise in the evening, then Mars will come over the horizon after midnight, followed by Saturn, then Venus, and Mercury just before dawn. All five should be visible from southeast to southwest between 6:00 and 6:30 am local time.

Image Credit: NASA