The probe was developed to take advantage of the sun, and captures – very surprising

The images, combined into a video, reveal continental regions, plains and plateaus on our sister planet.

Smothered in thick clouds, the surface of Venus is mostly hidden from view. But during two flights from the Parker Solar Probe — the one that’s been on its way to our parent star for several years — the spacecraft was able to get a glimpse of the mysterious surface of Venus. special teacher. Because it’s the first time images of the surface of Venus have been made in visible light – the type of light the human eye can see – from space.

enigmatic Venus
Although Venus shines in the night sky, it is still a mysterious planet. “Until recently, we didn’t have a lot of information about what the surface looked like,” said Brian Wood, study leader in Indiana. Geophysical Research Letters Published study. “This is because our vision is obscured by a dense atmosphere.” While the Parker Solar Probe is in the vicinity, the researchers decided to image the night side of our nearest neighbor using the built-in Wide Field Imager (or WISPR for short).

Gravitational pendulums along Venus
Although the focus Parker Solar Probe The Sun, Venus play a vital role in the mission. The planet’s gravity is used to bend the spacecraft’s orbit. These gravitational pendulums allow the spacecraft to fly close to the sun. In total, the Parker Solar Probe will fly over Venus seven times. During a previous flight, the Parker Solar Probe To photograph the dark side of Venus† This produced such amazing results that the mission team once again kept their cameras at the ready during the planet’s fourth flyby, this time immortalizing the entire night side of Venus.

“The primary goal was to measure drag velocity,” researcher Angelos Vourlidas said. But instead of just seeing clouds, WISPR was also able to peek at the surface of Venus.

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surface of venus
The images, combined into a video clip, reveal a faint glow from the surface that shows distinctive features such as continental regions, plains and plateaus. For example, the images show the region of Aphrodite Terra; The largest region of heights on the surface of Venus, located near the equator. The Tellus Regio plateau and the plains of Aino Planitia are also visible in the images. Because higher elevations are about 30°C cooler than lower elevations, they appear as dark patches amid brighter lowlands. A luminous “halo” of oxygen in the atmosphere can also be seen around the planet.

As the Parker Solar Probe skimmed past Venus on its fourth flight, its WISPR instrument captured these images — combined into video — to reveal the planet’s surface. Photo: NASA/APL/NRL

The researchers are very excited about the images produced. “The photos and videos really blew me away,” Wood says. “Finally we’re seeing the surface of Venus at wavelengths visible from space for the first time.”

That we now get a glimpse of the surface of our “evil twin sister” is quite unique. As mentioned, dense cloud cover blocks most of the visible light coming from the surface of Venus. But the longest visible wavelengths, which are bounded by the near-infrared wavelengths, manage to break through the thicker clouds. But during the day, this light gets lost amid the bright sunlight reflected from the cloud tops of Venus. But in the darkness of the night, WISPR cameras were able to capture this faint glow emanating from the sweltering surface. “The surface of Venus is very hot even at night,” Wood explains. “The atmosphere is so hot that the rocky surface of Venus glows in visible light, like a piece of iron being pulled out of a fire.”

Thanks to the images, researchers hope to learn more about the planet, which is often compared to Earth. For example, images can help reveal the geology of the surface of Venus and reveal minerals present. In addition, the images can tell more about the evolution of the planet. The latter is very interesting. Given the similarities between Earth and Venus, this information may help scientists understand why Venus is so unsuitable because Earth has turned into a true oasis.

But for now, researchers are satisfied with the results achieved. “We are excited about the scientific insights Parker Solar Probe has provided so far,” said study researcher Nicola Fox. “Parker continues to exceed our expectations. We are excited that these new observations, made during a gravitational pendulum, can help study Venus in unexpected ways.”

By the way, you will be staying here for a while. During the spacecraft’s next two flybys of Venus, the spacecraft is unlikely to be able to image the night side further. However, scientists will continue to use other instruments equipped with the probe to study Venus. In November 2024, the spacecraft will have one last chance to study the still-mysterious surface on its seventh and final flight after Venus.

Did you know…

… will be launching several missions to our nearest neighbors in the near future? Both NASA if ESA They announced their plans for promising expeditions to Venus. Hopefully, space probes will reveal many secrets about the still mysterious and uninhabitable planet.

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