Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

No shortage of mysteries on Venus

28.11.2002


What kind of mysteries and scientific intrigue await the European Space Agency’s Venus Express once it has left Earth for its nearest planetary neighbour in 2005? A closer inspection promises to reveal a planet that is hugely different from our own despite a few similarities.



Astronomers often call Venus the Earth’s twin because both are about the same size and have the same mass. In other ways, however, Venus seems to be an altogether different class of planet. Scientists are keen to take a closer look at this cloudy, mysterious planet. After a 150-day cruise from Earth, Venus Express will manoeuvre into an orbit that loops over the poles of the planet once every 10 -16 hours. What will we see?

The first of many curiosities is the nature of the Venusian magnetic field. It is so weak that particles ejected from the Sun, known as the solar wind, do not go around the planet, as they do at Earth. Instead they continuously strike Venus’s upper atmosphere. Scientists want to know more about how this process takes place.


The atmosphere itself contains plenty of puzzles. Hakan Svedhem, project scientist for Venus Express, says, "The atmosphere of Venus is unique in the Solar System, so understanding it is very important." What we know about our own atmosphere does not much help us understand Venus. How can ’Earth’s twin’ possess such a different atmosphere? The thick atmosphere creates a greenhouse effect, making Venus hotter than a kitchen oven. This greenhouse effect is definitely worth studying. Another mystery concerns the movement of the atmosphere. About 60 kilometres above the surface, winds race through the cloud cover at almost 400 kilometres per hour. They make the atmosphere rotate, but we do not know how this so-called super-rotation occurs.

The planet’s peculiar backward rotation is also a riddle. Venus rotates in the opposite direction to Earth and most of the other planets in the Solar System. It also spins incredibly slowly, taking around 250 Earth days to spin once, as compared to 1 day for Earth. Recent computer models suggest that Venus used to rotate on its axis the same way as Earth did but its heavy atmosphere dragged it to a standstill before causing the present, slow backward rotation.

When we think of the planet’s surface, there are many more mysteries. Are there still active volcanoes? Is the entire planet’s surface a single solid crust or does it consist of continental plates that float on a partially molten interior, similar to Earth? We know the planet itself is 4 thousand million years old but the entire surface of Venus appears to be 500 million years old! Was the planet resurfaced? If so, how did that happen?

Perhaps the most exciting phenomenon of all is in the atmosphere, just above the super-rotation layer. Here, at about 80 kilometres altitude, something is absorbing ultraviolet wavelengths of light. There is no obvious explanation of these mysterious absorption patches. However, some scientists believe that they could be acid-eating microbes using ultraviolet light in some alien photosynthesis process.

There is a large range of mysteries for Venus Express to investigate. As Svedham says, "This mission will enhance our entire picture of Venus. We will understand it as a planet much more."

Monica Talevi | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/ESAHRH7708D_Expanding_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>