Venus Express equipment test successful

November 28, 2005
Earth-Moon observations from Venus Express

A recent check of the VIRTIS imaging spectrometer during the Venus Express commissioning phase has allowed its first remote-sensing data to be acquired, using Earth and the Moon as a reference.

Image: Just two weeks after launch, during the commissioning phase of Venus Express, the VIRTIS imaging spectrometer has been able to acquire its first remote-sensing data. This image, acquired on 23 November, shows Earth at about 3.5 million km as seen by VIRTIS-M visible channel in true colour format. The angular separation is about 1.6 degrees. The phase angle is 65 degrees, which means that 65% of Earth's disk is illuminated by the Sun. Credits: ESA/VIRTIS team

After a successful in-flight checkout of the spacecraft's systems in the first ten days of flight, the ESOC operations team is now verifying the health and functioning of all the Venus Express instruments. These observations were made as part of this checkout.
Of course the very large distance that Venus Express has travelled since its launch makes these images of limited interest to the general public, but to the scientific team it confirms the excellent operation of their instrument.

This gives them confidence of spectacular results when the spacecraft reaches Venus where similar measurements will be made hundreds times closer.

VIRTIS sees the Earth-Moon system

Only two weeks after the launch, VIRTIS, the Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-Infrared mapping spectrometer, has been able to make its first planetary observations, capturing the Earth-Moon system.

”The observations were made from 3.5 million kilometres away, with a phase angle of 65 degrees, meaning that 65% of Earth’s disk was illuminated by the Sun, providing observations of both the day and night sides of Earth,” explains Guiseppe Piccioni, one of the two Principal Investigators (PI).

These Earth observations will be used to test the instrument on a real planetary case, before Venus approach.

“A comparison of Venus spectra with Earth spectra with the same instrument will also be of interest for textbook illustration of the comparison between the two planets,” explained Pierre Drossart, the other PI.

The Moon has also been observed, providing additional observations of particular interest for calibrating the instrument.

The VIRTIS instrument on Venus Express is a twin of the same instrument on Rosetta, and similar observations were sent back by Rosetta in March 2005, so comparisons of the two sets of observations will be very useful for calibration purposes.

The VIRTIS instrument is led jointly by INAF-IASF, Rome, Italy, and Observatoire de Paris, France.

Source: ESA

Explore further: The planet Mercury

Related Stories

The planet Mercury

August 6, 2015

Mercury is the closest planet to our sun, the smallest of the eight planets, and one of the most extreme worlds in our solar systems. Named after the Roman messenger of the gods, the planet is one of a handful that can be ...

The Planet Saturn

August 3, 2015

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – ...

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

Mariner 4 to Mars, 50 years later

July 15, 2015

July 14 marks 50 years of visual reconnaissance of the solar system by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), beginning with Mariner 4's flyby of Mars in 1965.

What causes lightning?

July 10, 2015

Thunder and lightning. When it comes to the forces of nature, few other things have inspired as much fear, reverence, or fascination – not to mention legends, mythos, and religious representations. As with all things in ...

Recommended for you

Team extends the lifetime of atoms using a mirror

October 13, 2015

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in an experiment where they get an artificial atom to survive ten times longer than normal by positioning the atom in front of a mirror. The findings were recently ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.