For the very first time, the strange night side of Venus has been revealed after scientists employed the European Space Agency’s Venus Express to analyze the upper cloud patterns and wind on the hidden side of Venus. As far as planets go, Venus is an odd one. Temperatures routinely reach close to 900 degrees Fahrenheit and its surface pressures compare to that of the depths of Earth’s great seas. When it rains on Venus, the planet sees sulfuric acid fall and its rotation is in the opposite direction from the path it takes to orbit the sun, making it the only planet in our solar system that does this.
As a result of this, one side of Venus receives a massive amount of light from the sun before it eventually begins to rotate over to its night side. Scientists curious about the elusive night side of Venus have now been able to take data from the Venus Express and from this extrapolated that there are some pretty major differences in the nighttime and daytime sides of the planet.
The new study of Venus’s dark side showed strange and new cloud structures that had never been seen before as well as cold water rushing up to the surface of the planet, known as upwelling, according to Popular Mechanics.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Javier Peralta, who is the lead author of the new study on the night side of Venus, explained that while Venus’s day side has been studied in great detail, this is the first research that delves deeply into the planet’s normally hidden side, as Phys.org reports.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to characterize how the atmosphere circulates on the night side of Venus on a global scale. While the atmospheric circulation on the planet’s day side has been extensively explored, there was still much to discover about the night side. We found that the cloud patterns there are different to those on the day side, and influenced by Venus’s topography.”
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) September 15, 2017
The atmosphere of Venus is an exceptionally windy, with winds so strong and powerful that they rush over the planet even faster than Venus rotates, which is something that scientists call super-rotation. In fact, winds move 60 mph faster than the planet itself and are known to furiously pull clouds along with them.
Javier Peralta noted that scientists have been studying the phenomenon of these winds for many years now.
“We’ve spent decades studying these super-rotating winds by tracking how the upper clouds move on Venus’ day side. These are clearly visible in images acquired in ultraviolet light. However, our models of Venus remain unable to reproduce this super-rotation, which clearly indicates that we might be missing some pieces of this puzzle”
With the dayside of Venus so well studied, scientists decided to finally take a closer look at its night side.
“We focused on the night side because it had been poorly explored; we can see the upper clouds on the planet’s night side via their thermal emission, but it’s been difficult to observe them properly because the contrast in our infrared images was too low to pick up enough detail.”
The research team used something called the VIRTIS, or the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, so that they could study clouds in the infrared for the first time ever. VIRTIS took numerous images of Venus that had been taken at different wavelengths and combined all of these so that the clouds would be more visible, allowing scientists to really see the night side of Venus which has up until now never been seen before. The clouds on the night side of Venus took on entirely new and different shapes than those that had been found on the day side.
Further details of what researchers found on the night side of Venus can be found in the latest study published in Nature Astronomy.
[Featured Image by NASA/Getty Images]