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 What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>