Chasing clouds on Venus

Oct 08, 2012
False-colour image of cloud features seen on Venus by the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) on Venus Express. The image was captured from a distance of 30 000 km on 8 December 2011. The VMC was designed and built by a consortium of German institutes lead by the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau. Venus Express has been in orbit around the planet since 2006. Credits: ESA/MPS/DLR/IDA

(Phys.org)—Clouds regularly punctuate Earth's blue sky, but on Venus the clouds never part, for the planet is wrapped entirely in a 20 km-thick veil of carbon dioxide and sulphuric dioxide haze.

This view shows the cloud tops of Venus as seen in by the Venus Express spacecraft on 8 December 2011, from a distance of about 30 000 km.

Much of the image is occupied by the planet's , with the at the bottom of the frame and the equator close to the top. The visible top cloud layer seen in the image is about 70 km above the planet's surface.

The observed pattern of bright and dark markings is caused by variations in an unknown absorbing chemical at the Venus . It is abundant in the low latitudes (upper part of the image) that make this region look dark in UV.

In the brighter (lower part of the image), the UV absorber is either in deficit or masked by a thick haze of a reflecting aerosol.

The shapes of the cloud top features show evidence of vigorous circulation and dynamics in the planet's atmosphere.

At low latitudes, mottled cloud formations associated with turbulent activities are seen, while smooth, laminar flows are visible in middle to high latitudes.

The wind speed is derived from tracking cloud features as they whip around the planet faster than 100 metres per second. This 'super-rotating' atmosphere completes one circuit every four Earth days, in comparison to the planet's surface, which takes 224 days to complete one revolution about its axis.

Explore further: Easter morning delivery for space station

Related Stories

New details on venusian clouds revealed

May 30, 2008

As ESA's Venus Express orbits our sister planet, new images of the cloud structure of one of the most enigmatic atmospheres of the Solar System reveal brand-new details.

Happy birthday, Venus Express!

Nov 09, 2006

One year after its launch on 9 November 2005 and a few months into its science phase, ESA's Venus Express keeps working well and continues to gather lots of data about the hot and noxious atmosphere of the ...

Watching Venus glow in the dark

Feb 24, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has observed an eerie glow in the night-time atmosphere of Venus. This infrared light comes from nitric oxide and is showing scientists that the atmosphere ...

The shape-shifting southern vortex of Venus

Apr 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New analysis of images taken by ESA's Venus Express orbiter has revealed surprising details about the remarkable, shape-shifting collar of clouds that swirls around the planet's South Pole. ...

Recommended for you

Testing immune cells on the International Space Station

11 hours ago

The human body is fine-tuned to Earth's gravity. A team headed by Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy is now conducting an experiment on the International Space Station ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

17 hours ago

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Apr 19, 2014

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Adam
2 / 5 (2) Oct 09, 2012
Correction: the clouds are sulfuric acid droplets, not carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide.

More news stories

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...