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.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.