Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Venus Has Extraordinarily Changeable And Extremely Large-scale Weather

Date:
February 26, 2008
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
Venus Express has revealed a planet of extraordinarily changeable and extremely large-scale weather. Bright hazes appear in a matter of days, reaching from the south pole to the low southern latitudes and disappearing just as quickly. Such 'global weather', unlike anything on Earth, has given scientists a new mystery to solve. The cloud-covered world of Venus is all but a featureless, unchangeable globe at visible wavelengths of light. Switch to the ultraviolet and it reveals a truly dynamic nature. Transient dark and bright markings stripe the planet, indicating regions where solar ultraviolet radiation is absorbed or reflected, respectively.

This is a picture of Venus's atmosphere, taken by the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) during Venus Express orbit number 443 on 8 July 2007. The view shows the southern hemisphere of the planet.
Credit: ESA/ MPS/DLR/IDA

Venus Express has revealed a planet of extraordinarily changeable and extremely large-scale weather. Bright hazes appear in a matter of days, reaching from the south pole to the low southern latitudes and disappearing just as quickly. Such ‘global weather’, unlike anything on Earth, has given scientists a new mystery to solve.

The cloud-covered world of Venus is all but a featureless, unchangeable globe at visible wavelengths of light. Switch to the ultraviolet and it reveals a truly dynamic nature. Transient dark and bright markings stripe the planet, indicating regions where solar ultraviolet radiation is absorbed or reflected, respectively.

Venus Express watches the behaviour of the planet’s atmosphere with its Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC). It has seen some amazing things. In July 2007, VMC captured a series of images showing the development of the bright southern haze. Within days, the high-altitude veil continually brightened and dimmed, moving towards equatorial latitudes and back towards the pole again.

Such global weather suggests that fast dynamical, chemical and microphysical processes are at work on the planet. During these episodes, the brightness of the southern polar latitudes increased by about a third and faded just as quickly, as sulphuric acid particles coagulate.

“This bright haze layer is made of sulphuric acid,” says Dmitri Titov, VMC Co-Investigator and Venus Express Science Coordinator, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany. That composition suggests the existence of a formation process to the VMC team.

At an altitude of about 70 km and below, Venus’s carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere contains small amounts of water vapour and gaseous sulphur dioxide. These are usually buried in the cloud layer that blocks our view of the surface at visible wavelengths.

However, if some atmospheric process lifts these molecules high up above the cloud tops, they are exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation. This breaks the molecules, making them highly reactive. The fragments find each other and combine quickly to form sulphuric acid particles, creating the haze.

“The process is a bit similar to what happens with urban smog over cities,” says Titov. With over 600 orbits completed, the VMC team now plan to look for repeating patterns of behaviour in the build-up and decrease of the haze layer.

What causes the water vapour and sulphur dioxide to well up in the first place? The team does not know yet. Titov says that it is probably an internal dynamical process in the planet’s atmosphere. Also, the influence of solar activity on haze formation has not been completely ruled out.

When the team have worked out what causes the hazes and their vigorous dynamics, there is still another problem waiting to be solved. The dark markings on these images are one of the biggest remaining mysteries of Venus’s atmosphere. They are caused by some chemical species, absorbing solar ultraviolet radiation. However, as yet, planetary scientists do not know the identity of the chemical. Now that they can spot these dark patches quickly with VMC, the team hopes to use another Venus Express instrument, VIRTIS, to pinpoint the exact chemical composition of these regions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Venus Has Extraordinarily Changeable And Extremely Large-scale Weather." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080221084148.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2008, February 26). Venus Has Extraordinarily Changeable And Extremely Large-scale Weather. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080221084148.htm
European Space Agency. "Venus Has Extraordinarily Changeable And Extremely Large-scale Weather." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080221084148.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins