Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Venus mission will hold surprises says U. of Colorado planetary scientist


Veteran CU-Boulder scientist on camera team

University of Colorado at Boulder planetary scientist Larry Esposito, a member of the European Space Agency’s Venus Express science team, believes the upcoming mission to Earth’s "evil twin" planet should be full of surprises.

While its 875-degree F. surface is hot enough to make rocks glow and its atmosphere is filled with noxious carbon dioxide gases and acid rain, Venus actually is more Earth-like than Mars, said Esposito, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. A member of the Venus Monitoring Camera team for the $260 million now slated for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 9, Esposito said Venus is a "neglected planet" that undoubtedly harbors a number of astounding discoveries.

One question revolves around what is known as an "unknown ultraviolet absorber" high in the planet’s clouds that blocks sunlight from reaching the surface. "Some scientists believe there is the potential, at least, that life could be found in the clouds of Venus," said Esposito. "There has been speculation that sunlight absorbed by the clouds might be involved in some kind of biological activity."

Esposito is particularly eager to see if volcanoes on Venus are still active. In 1983 he used data from a CU-Boulder instrument that flew on NASA’s Pioneer Venus spacecraft to uncover evidence that a massive volcanic eruption there poured huge amounts of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. The eruption, which likely occurred in the late 1970s, appears to have been at least 10 times more powerful than any that have occurred on Earth in more than a century, he said.

"The spacecraft will be looking for ’hotspots’ through the clouds in an attempt to make a positive detection of volcanoes," said Esposito, who made the first observations of Venus with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. "While the Magellan mission that mapped Venus in the 1990s was not able to find evidence of volcanic activity, it did not close out the question. This will give us another shot."

Since Venus and Earth were virtual twins at birth, scientists are puzzled how planets so similar in size, mass and composition could have evolved such different physical and chemical processes, he said. "The results from missions like this have major implications for our understanding of terrestrial planets as a whole, and for comparable processes occurring on Earth and Mars," said Esposito.

Esposito has been involved in a number of planetary exploration missions at CU-Boulder. He currently is science team leader for the UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph, a $12.5 million CU-Boulder instrument on the Cassini spacecraft now exploring the rings and moons of Saturn.

He also was an investigator for a CU-Boulder instrument that visited Jupiter and its moons in the 1990s aboard NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, and was an investigator for NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft that toted a CU-Boulder instrument on a tour of the solar system’s planets in the 1970s and 1980s.

Esposito was a science team member on two failed Russian missions to Mars -- the 1988 Phobos mission that exploded in space and the Mars 96 mission that crashed in Earth’s ocean. Five of the science instruments on Venus Express are "spares" from the Mars Express and Rosetta comet mission, according to ESA.

In addition to the camera, the Venus Express spacecraft also is carrying two imaging spectrometers, a spectrometer to measure atmospheric constituents, a radio science experiment and a space plasma and atom-detecting instrument. The spacecraft is expected to arrive at Venus in April 2006 and orbit the planet for about 16 months.

The Venus Express mission originally was scheduled to launch Oct. 26, but a thermal-insulation problem discovered in the upper-stage booster rocket caused a two-week delay. The launch window closes on Nov. 24.

Larry Esposito | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

nachricht Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch
20.10.2016 | The Optical Society

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>