What’s up with the dark side of Venus? Scientists find weird phenomenon : Worldly Science

Venus may be the Greek goddess of love, but there is nothing love worthy about the dark side of Venus-the side of the planet that is always shrouded in darkness. The recent analysis carried out on a global scale discovered that the toxic atmosphere on Venus with its powerful winds was actually even more erratic and aggravated on the dark side, reported the journal, Nature Astronomy.

Rotating once every 243 Earth days, Venus has the slowest rotation speed of all the solar system planets. Though the atmospheric circulation on the day side has been explored quite a bit, the night side of Venus had been full of mysteries.

The Venus Express spacecraft from ESA went around the planet from 2006 to 2014 and the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on the spacecraft helped reveal some of the latest findings on Venus to the team from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Here are some of the findings:

  • In a phenomenon called ‘super-rotation’, swirling winds at speeds 60 times faster than the planet’s rotation plaque the atmosphere of Venus. This was done by observing and tracking the swirling upper clouds which can be observed in the planet’s daytime too
  • Scientists had no clue what was going on beneath the cloud covers on the planet and theorised that super-rotation occurred the same way on both the day and night sides of the planet. But now, they realise that the swirling winds on Venus are stronger on the side hidden from the sun
  • The winds on the night side are formed along with large and wavy clouds which are irregular and form filament-like patterns. This is not seen n the sunny side of Venus
  • The team came upon a new possible phenomenon they call ‘stationary waves’. These are ‘gravity waves’ which are created in the lower areas of Venus’ atmosphere and appear to remain stationary as the planet rotates
  • The weird waves are concentrated on the mountainous areas of Venus which are very steep and makes scientists believe that the unnatural phenomenon has something to do with the topography of Venus. Though gravity waves have been observed before, this is the first time that scientists are considering factors apart from topography as their cause
  • However, on observing the atmosphere of Venus up to 50 kilometres from the surface in the southern hemisphere, the scientists were surprised to find no evidence of gravity waves. They has assumed that the clouds were formed from the surface and rose up
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We have come a long way in uncovering the mysteries of the solar system planets, but it looks like much more work remains to be done.

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