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Parker Solar Probe captures the first image of the surface of Venus with visible light

Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe took the first visible light image of the surface of Venus from space.


Wrapped in thick clouds, Venus’ Water surface It is usually covered from view. However, on the two recent planetary fly-bys, Parker used the Widefield Imager (WISPR) to image the entire night side at wavelengths in the visible spectrum (the type of light visible to the human eye). Expanded to near infrared rays. ..

The images combined with the video reveal a faint glow from surfaces that show unique features such as continental regions, plains, and plateaus. Luminous halos of oxygen in the atmosphere can also be seen around the planet.

“We are thrilled with the scientific insights Parker Solar Probe has provided so far,” said Nicola Fox, head of the heliophysics division at NASA headquarters. “Parker continues to exceed our expectations and we are pleased that these new observations made during our gravity-assisted operations will help us to proceed with the study of Venus in unexpected ways.”

Images of such planets, often referred to as Earth’s twins, help scientists learn more about the geology of the surface of Venus, the minerals that may be there, and the evolution of the planet. Given the similarities between planets, this information can help scientists understand why Venus has become difficult to live in and the Earth has become an oasis.

“Venus is the third brightest in the sky, but until recently, we didn’t have much information about what the surface would look like because our view was obstructed by the thick atmosphere,” the new study said. Brian Wood, the lead author of the book, said. Physicist at the Navy Institute in Washington, DC. “Now we are finally seeing the surface of visible wavelengths for the first time from space.”

Unexpected features

The first WISPR image of Venus was taken in July 2020 when Parker embarked on his third flyby. This flyby is used by spacecraft to bring their orbits closer to the sun. WISPR is designed to identify the faint features of the Sun’s atmosphere and wind, and some scientists use WISPR to cover the cloud tops of Venus as Parker passes through the planet. I thought it might be possible to image it.

When Parker Solar Probe flew by Venus on its fourth flyby, its WISPR equipment captured these images and stitched them into a video to show the night-side surface of the planet. Credits: NASA / APL / NRL

“The purpose was to measure the velocity of the clouds,” said Angelos Vourlidas, a scientist at the WISPR project, co-author and researcher of a new paper at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

However, WISPR not only saw the clouds, but also seeed through the surface of the planet. The image was so impressive that scientists turned the camera back on on their fourth pass in February 2021. During the 2021 flyby, the spacecraft’s orbits were perfectly aligned for WISPR to image the entire night side of Venus.

“The images and videos surprised me,” Wood said.

Shines like iron from the smithy

Clouds block most of the visible light coming from the surface of Venus, but pass very long visible wavelengths adjacent to near-infrared wavelengths. In the daytime, this red light is lost in the bright sunshine reflected at the top of Venus, but in the darkness of the night, the WISPR camera has this faint glow caused by the incredible heat emanating from its surface. I was able to catch.

“The surface of Venus is about 860 degrees, even on the night side,” Wood said. “Because it’s so hot, the surface of Venus’ rock is visibly shining like a piece of iron drawn from a smithy.”

As it passed Venus, WISPR detected a wavelength range from 470 nanometers to 800 nanometers. Some of that light is near-infrared (wavelengths that we cannot see but are perceived as heat), and some are in the visible range of 380 nanometers to about 750 nanometers.

Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Venus in the new light

In 1975, the Venera 9 lander was able to get a glimpse of the first appetizing surface after landing on Venus. Since then, the surface of Venus has been further revealed by radar and infrared equipment. Radar and infrared devices can look into thick clouds using light of wavelengths invisible to the human eye. NASA’s Magellan mission used radar to create the first map in the 1990s, and JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft collected infrared images after reaching orbit around Venus in 2016. look.

WISPR images show the features of the surface of Venus such as the Aphrodite Terra, Telus Regio Plateau, and Ainoplanitia Plains in the continental region. High altitude areas are about 85 degrees Fahrenheit lower than low altitude areas, so they appear as dark spots in bright lowlands. These features can also be seen in previous radar images, such as those taken by Magellan.

The new WISPR images not only help scientists see surface features, but also help scientists better understand Venus’ geology and mineral composition. When heated, the material emits light at its own wavelength. Combining the new image with the previous one gives scientists a wider range of wavelengths to study and helps identify minerals on the surface of the planet. Such techniques were previously used to study the surface of the moon. Future missions will continue to expand this wavelength range and contribute to the understanding of habitable planets.

This information may also help scientists understand the evolution of the planet. Venus, Earth, and Mars were all formed at the same time, but today they are very different. The atmosphere of Mars is only a small part of the Earth, but the atmosphere of Venus is much thicker. Scientists suspect that volcanic activity played a role in creating a dense atmosphere of Venus, but more data is needed to know how. The new WISPR image may provide clues as to how the volcano affected the planet’s atmosphere.

In addition to surface brilliance, the new image shows a bright ring around the edge of the planet caused by oxygen atoms that emit light into the atmosphere. This type of light, called airglow, also exists in the Earth’s atmosphere and can be seen from space and sometimes from the ground at night.

Flyby science

While Parker Solar Probe’s main goal is solar science, the Venus flyby offers an exciting opportunity for unexpected bonus data at the start of the mission.

WISPR also imaged Venus’s orbit dust ring, a donut-shaped track of fine particles scattered as a result of Venus’s orbit around the Sun, and FIELDS instruments directly measure Venus’ atmospheric radio waves, scientists. But how the upper atmosphere changes during the sun’s 11-year activity cycle.

In December 2021, researchers announced a new discovery regarding the rediscovery of a comet-like tail of plasma flowing from behind Venus, called the “tail ray.” New results show that the tail of this particle extends about 5,000 miles from Venus’ atmosphere. This tail may have contributed to the current dry and unlivable environment where Venus’ water escapes from the planet.

With the following two flyby shapes, Parker may not be able to imagine the night side, but scientists will continue to use Parker’s other equipment to study Venus’ space environment. In November 2024, the spacecraft has a final chance to image the surface on its seventh and final flyby.

The future of Venus research

The Parker Solar Probe, built and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is not the first mission to collect flyby bonus data, but due to recent success, when other missions pass. Now turn on the device. Venus. In addition to Parker, the ESA (European Space Agency) BepiColombo mission and the ESA and NASA Solar Orbiter missions have decided to collect data during the flyby over the next few years.

With NASA’s DAVINCI and VERITAS missions, and ESA’s EnVision mission, more spacecraft are heading to Venus towards the end of the decade. These missions not only help to image and sample Venus’ atmosphere, but also help remap the surface at higher resolutions using infrared wavelengths. This information helps scientists determine the mineral composition of the surface and better understand the geological history of the planet.

Lori Glaze, Director of Planetary Sciences at NASA Headquarters, said: “Both DAVINCI and VERITAS primarily use near-infrared imaging, but Parker’s results show the value of imaging a wide range of wavelengths.”


Parker Solar Probe provides stunning views of Venus


Quote: Parker Solar Probe is visible light acquired from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-parker-solar-probe-captures-images on February 9, 2022 (February 9, 2022). Capture the first image of the surface of Venus with. html

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Parker Solar Probe captures the first image of the surface of Venus with visible light

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