What the night side of Venus hides and why astronomers are so interested in it

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2017, astronomers managed to conduct a detailed study of the night side of one of the most dangerous and inhospitable planets in the solar system Venus. It turned out that the darkness of the night hides mysteries and anomalies, which modern science cannot explain.

Venus is a strange and very dangerous planet. The temperature in some of its regions sometimes reaches 480 ° C , sulfuric acid rains from the sky , and the pressure on its surface is equivalent to the pressure in the depths of the earth’s oceans.

However, Venus is unique in our solar system for a very different reason. A day in this world lasts longer than a year: in order to completely circle the Sun, the planet needs 225 days, while a complete rotation around its own axis takes 243 days.

In addition, Venus is the only planet that orbits a star in the opposite direction to the rotation of other planets.

Mysteries of the night side of Venus

How do these anomalies affect Venus itself? From a human point of view, it is very unfortunate. Due to such a slow rotation, one half of the planet receives a huge dose of solar heat and radiation, until finally it is replaced by the night side.

An international team of scientists, using data from ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, recently found that there are also very significant differences between the day and night sides of Venus.

For the first time in history, astronomers have described in detail the night side of the planet, unique cloud structures and even mysterious displacements of the atmospheric layers, which could only be seen in the darkness of the night.

“Despite the fact that the atmospheric circulation on the day side of the planet has been studied quite extensively, we still have a lot to learn about its night side,” says Javier Peralta of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

“We found that the structure of the clouds on the night side is different from those on the day side, and is largely dependent on the topography of Venus.”

Although the planet itself rotates incredibly slowly, the winds in the Venusian atmosphere blow 60 times faster than this – a phenomenon called “superrotation”. Due to such stormy winds, clouds on Venus also move in the atmosphere at high speed, reaching a peak in the highlands (at altitudes from 65 to 72 km).

It was not easy to study them: as you know, observation of the night side of Venus is complicated by numerous factors.

Peralta explains that clouds can only be seen from orbit using their own thermal radiation, but the contrast in the infrared images was too low for scientists to be able to map them dynamically into the atmosphere.

As a result, Venus Express, using Visible technology and an infrared thermal imaging spectrometer (VIRTIS), took literally hundreds of infrared photographs at various wavelengths.

Stationary waves: anomalous energy flows

What the night side of Venus hides and why astronomers are so interested in it 2
This scheme demonstrates the principle of superrotation in the upper layers of the Venusian atmosphere: on the day side it has a more uniform character, but on the night side it looks irregular and unpredictable

Previously, it was assumed that superrotation occurs on the day and night sides of the planet in the same way.

However, a new study has shown that the night side of Venus has its own unique cloud formations and a different morphology of the cloud layer in general. Scientists have discovered wavy filamentous clouds, which simply did not exist on the day side.

In addition, upleveling has been noticed: on Earth, this term means that water layers from the depths of the ocean rise to the surface; in the case of Venus, the same applies to the clouds.

This feature of the night half of the planet was dubbed “stationary waves”. According to Agustín Sánchez-Lavega of the Universidad del Pais Vasco in Bilbao, Spain, these are a kind of gravitational waves: updrafts that originate in the planet’s lower atmosphere do not follow the planet’s rotation.

They are concentrated for the most part in the highlands, which suggests that clouds are directly affected by topography.

The mysterious waves were modeled in 3D using VIRTIS data as well as radio data received from another spacecraft system, the Venus Radio Science experiment (VeRa).

It was assumed that atmospheric waves are the result of strong winds blowing over topographic objects – a similar process has been documented on the day side of Venus.

What the night side of Venus hides and why astronomers are so interested in it 3
On the night side of Venus, astronomers have discovered mysterious filamentous formations in the atmosphere, studying it with the help of VIRTIS

Even more puzzling to astronomers is the fact that stationary waves are absent in the middle and lower cloud layers of Venus, not appearing below 50 km above the surface.

So for the time being, science is powerless and unable to point to the source of these waves of ascending energy. “When we realized that some of the cloud formations in the VIRTIS imagery weren’t moving with the atmosphere, it took my breath away.

My colleagues and I argued for a long time about what we see on the screens – real data or the result of a system error, until finally another team, led by Dr. Kuyama, discovered the same stationary clouds on the night side of the planet using the NASA Infrared Telescope (IRTF) in Hawaii.

In addition, our results were confirmed by the Akatsuki spacecraft.agency JAXA, which discovered the largest stationary wave in the history of observations of the planet as soon as it reached the orbit of Venus, ”said Peralta.


Stationary waves and other planetary anomalies on the night side forced scientists to almost completely abandon earlier models of Venus, so astronomers again had to return to the calculations and hastily build new theories that could explain such strange research results.

Probably, in the future, when research missions gather more information, other secrets of the night side of one of the most inhospitable planets in the solar system will become known.


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