Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

102,102 subscribers and counting ...

EarthSky // Science Wire, Space Release Date: Jan 13, 2014

Waves in the atmosphere of Venus

Using the Venus Express spacecraft, scientists have identified four types of waves in the atmosphere of Venus: long, medium, short and irregular.

View larger. | Waves in atmosphere of Venus via Venus Express

View larger. | Waves in atmosphere of Venus via Venus Express. Long waves (top left) appeared as narrow straight features extending more than a few hundreds of kilometers and with wavelengths (separation of crests) between 7 and 17 km. Medium type waves (top centre) exhibited irregular wave fronts extending for more than 100 km and with wavelengths of 8 – 21 km. Short waves (top right) had a width of several tens of kilometres and extended to a few hundreds of kilometres, with wavelengths of 3 – 16 km. Irregular wave fields (bottom row) appeared to be the result of wave interference. Image and caption via ESA.

As seen through earthly telescopes, Venus has no features in its atmosphere.  We do, however, see the planet exhibit phases, like the moon.  Image via Marc Lecleire and Wikimedia Commons.

As seen through earthly telescopes, Venus has no features in its atmosphere. We do, however, see the planet exhibiting phases, like the moon. Image via Marc Lecleire and Wikimedia Commons.

There was a time when earthly observers described Venus as featureless. After all, when we gaze toward our neighbor planet through earthly telescopes, we see a world blanketed in apparently featureless clouds. Closer observations via spacecraft – especially those using infrared and radar detectors – have let us begin to explore more detail on this formerly featureless world, both on its surface and in its atmosphere. Now the European Space Agency (ESA) reported this morning (January 13, 2014) that a study of gravity waves in Venus’ atmosphere has found four types of atmospheric waves: long, medium, short and irregular.

A camera aboard ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft was used to identify the waves. They were mostly found at high latitudes on Venus (60-80 degrees N) in a region of high cloud known as the cold collar. The waves were concentrated above the continent-sized highland of Ishtar Terra on Venus.

The waves were often identified in images taken at several different wavelengths (ultraviolet – 365 nm; visible – 513 nm; and near-infrared – 965 nm and 1000 nm).

The detection of these waves and their association with a geological feature strengthens the case that features on the surface of Venus are a factor in driving the planet’s atmospheric circulation.

Bottom line: The European Space Agency reported on January 13, 2014 that a study of gravity waves in Venus’ atmosphere has found four types of waves: long, medium, short and irregular.

Via the European Space Agency