Venus is the second planet from the sun in our solar system. The planet has been named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Up until now, scientists had only been able to study the sunny side of the planet, but recent studies have shown a different behavioral pattern from that of its part facing the sun.
Distinct wind and cloud pattern of the night side of the planet Venus has been observed by the scientists. The dark side of the planet shows unexpected and previously-unseen cloud patterns and dynamics, some of which might be connected to features on the planet’s surface. In the words of Javier Peralta of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the night side of the planet Venus has been studied on a global scale for the very first time and scientists have been able to characterize how the atmosphere circulates on the night side of the planet.
The atmospheric circulation pattern on the dayside of the planet has been extensively explored but the night side was still an uncharted territory and studying the night side of the planet revealed cloud patterns that are totally different from those on the dayside and are influenced by the planet’s topography, according to a statement published in the journal Nature Astronomy by the lead author of the study Peralta.
The speed of the winds that whirl around the planet is faster than the speed of rotation of Venus itself. This phenomenon has been termed ‘super-rotation’ in which the Venusian winds with speeds up to 60 times faster than that of the planet has been observed. These winds go about pushing and dragging the clouds along within the atmosphere as they go. At the upper level around 65 to 72 kilometers above the surface, these clouds travel fastest.
Scientists have spent decades studying these super-rotating winds by tracking the upper cloud movement on the dayside of Venus which is clearly visible in the images acquired in ultraviolet light. However, the scientists were unable to reproduce the same super-rotation in their model which means that they had missed some pieces of the puzzle. The team used Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on European Space Agency (ESA)’s Venus Express spacecraft to observe the night side of the planet and determine the cloud patterns.
VIRTIS captured a cube of multiple images at different wavelengths which helped the scientists determine that the night side of the planet has totally different behavior than the bright side.