Sun’s probe surprised NASA with an incredible picture of Venus

Parker Solar Probe, closest to NASA’s Sun, was whispering for a gravitational aid by Venus last summer when it snapped a striking new image of the planet’s mysterious night, giving a surprisingly clear view of the Venusian surface.

The spacecraft, launched in 2018, is in the midst of its seven-year journey to study the Sun from 4 million miles away, the closest to any man-made object ever before. To do this, the Parker Solar Probe needs to use the gravity of Venus to help tighten its orbit around the Sun through a series of seven flybys, which are closer to the star with each pass.

Those scenic routes are valuable opportunities to capture intriguing shots of Venus.

The image, taken by Parker Solar Probe’s wide-field imager (WISPR), came during its third Venus flyby in July 2020, and shocked scientists. They expected that WISPR would capture Venus’ thick, carbon dioxide-rich clouds that typically obstruct surface views. But instead, the camera was able to see through the clouds and reveal the dark-tinted shape of Aphrodite Terra, an elevated region of Venus near its equator, which scientists say is about 85 compared to its surroundings ° F is cooler.

An up-close shot of Venus’ nightside taken by Parker Solar Probe, with key features annotated by NASA.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Naval Research Laboratory / Guillermo Steinberg & Brendan Gallagher

“WISPR effectively captured the thermal emission of the Venusian surface,” Brian Wood, an astrophysicist and WISPR scientist at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, NASA statement. Wood said the image was similar Taken by a japanese venus probe Currently analyzing Venus that can capture light at near-infrared wavelengths.

Revelation can mean one of two things.

WISPR may have shown an unexpected ability to sense infrared light, which, if true, could unlock a new ability for scientists to study the sun’s circling dust. Written in a NASA blog post.

But if this is not the case, the presence of Aphrodite Terra could mean that WISPR made a previously unknown discovery in dense Venusian clouds, a “window” that reveals parts of the planet’s surface.

To find out, mission teams last weekend scheduled more nightside shots of Venus in their latest flyby. They plan to release more images and an analysis by the end of April.

WISPR’s image revealed other attractive signs of Venus. It detected a glowing rim in the planet’s upper atmosphere that scientists suspect may be “nightglow”. For Venus nightside, it can be faint, especially due to the collision of oxygen and nitrogen atoms that come into contact with the sun.

The NASA Post stated that scientists are still studying the exact cause of sensible stripes of light darting across the frame of the image. They can be called particles Cosmic rays, Small grains of space dust reflect sunlight or “particles of material extracted from spacecraft structures after the impact of dust particles.”

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