What are these Strange Cloud Formations on Venus?

By | June 13, 2016
A photo taken by a Japanese spacecraft in orbit captures strange cloud formations on Venus and shows details of the mysterious world by night.

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akatsuki spacecraft snapped this image, which shows the clouds of Venus, in infrared light earlier this year as part of its mission to learn more about the planet’s atmosphere.

But Akatsuki almost lost its chance to take this image and others like it. The robotic craft actually missed its first chance to get into orbit around Venus five years ago.

Since arriving in orbit around the planet in 2015, the craft has made up for lost time, beaming back amazing images and data about the second planet from the sun.

Earlier in its mission, the spacecraft also produced a video of Venus’ rotation and clouds.

Strange Cloud Formations on Venus

Strange Cloud Formations on Venus

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This movie is produced from the IR2 2.26-μm images, acquired on 29 March 2016 at a distance of 0.36 million km. Original 4 images were acquired with 4-hour intervals from 16:03 JST (07:03 UT).

In 4 hours, the super-rotating clouds move by ~10 degrees. Such images are numerically derotated to produce intermediate images so that the resultant motion becomes smoother. Deformation, appearance and disappearance of clouds are obvious in this movie. As the mission enters the “nominal” observing phase, we plan to shorten the intervals to 2 hours or even shorter so the high-definition movies will definitely help understanding of the Venus atmosphere.

Strange Cloud Formations on Venus?

“Akatsuki has cameras and instruments that will investigate unknowns about the planet, including whether volcanoes are still active, whether lightning occurs in the dense atmosphere, and why wind speeds greatly exceed the planet’s rotation speed,” NASA said in a statement about the photo.

In the newly-released photo, the orange line demarcating the day and night side of Venus looks quite wide because of the way the planet’s clouds interact with the light of the sun.

Akatsuki isn’t the only orbiter to take a look at Venus through the years. NASA, Europe and Russia have all before sent spacecraft to the cloudy world as well. 

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