Mountains on Venus Make Waves in the Sky
ESA/Venus Express/VMC/A. Piccialli et al., 2014
Long, medium, short and irregular gravity waves observed in Venus’ atmosphere.
The third Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket cargo run to the space station launches from Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Jan. 9, 2014. Orbital is one of two private firms contracted by NASA to resupply the outpost.READ MORE: Belated Christmas: Orbital Rocket Launches ISS Cargo
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:06 p.m. EST. successfully carrying the Thaicom 6 satellite to a parking orbit 55,900 miles above Earth.READ MORE: SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Thai Communications Sat
SpaceShipTwo's rocket engine burst to life during a successful powered test flight over the Mojave Desert, Calif., on Friday. This comes ahead of the company's plan to see the first suborbital space tourist trips later in 2014.READ MORE: SpaceShipTwo Aces Third Rocket-Powered Test Flight
A tiny amount of sunlight leaks through a truss-based radiator panel and a primary solar array panel on International Space Station, as seen by an Expedition 39 space station crewmember.
A recent Mastcam photograph by Mars rover Curiosity of damage on one of its aluminum wheels. This week, NASA released images of Curiosity as seen by the orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.READ MORE: NASA Orbiter Spies Curiosity Ripping Up Mars Dust
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Color version of the Dec. 11, 2013, observation by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Note the geological variations in the surrounding landscape.
Meanwhile, a decade ago... A panorama of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing site inside Gusev Crater. Jan. 4 marked the 10 year anniversary since the rover touched down on the red planet.READ MORE: Spirit's Decade Old Mosaic of Mars is Still Stunning
A X1-class solar flare erupted from AR 1944 on Jan. 7. The flare also triggered a coronal mass ejection (CME) that that was directed toward Earth, but it had minimal impact on Jan. 9. The event, however, delayed the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch by two days amid concerns for the high-radiation environment surrounding Earth.READ MORE: Solar Boom: Sun Blasts X-Class Flare Right At Us
The recommissioned infrared NASA orbiter NEOWISE observed a newly-discovered near-Earth asteroid 2013 YP139.READ MORE: Recommissioned NEOWISE Discovers Near-Earth Asteroid
GPI/Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada
Gemini Planet Imager's 'first light' image of Beta Pictoris b, an exoplanet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. The commissioning of the GRI represents a new era in exoplanetary studies.READ MORE: New Exoplanet Hunter Directly Images Alien Worlds
Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)
Artist conception of Supernova 1987A and its newly discovered dust cloud.READ MORE: Dust Bunnies Discovered Around 'Dirty' Supernova
NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)
This long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image of massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is the deepest ever made of any cluster of galaxies. This is the first image from Hubble's "Frontier Fields" project.READ MORE: Hubble Takes Deepest View Into Cosmic Frontier
Searing hot Venus may not have any liquid oceans on its surface — at least it hasn’t within the past several billion years — but its super-dense atmosphere acts a bit like an ocean… complete with ripples and waves kicked up by winds blowing over some of its tallest and most rugged mountains.
Instruments aboard the European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter have detected various types of wave structures propagating through Venus’ thick cloud layers. These so-called “gravity waves“ are also found in Earth’s atmosphere, and can be caused by both the upwelling of warm air from below or by horizontal movement over a surface feature, such as a mountain.
“We believe that these waves are at least partly associated with atmospheric flow over Ishtar Terra, an upland region which includes the highest mountains on Venus,” said Silvia Tellmann of the Rheinisches Institut für Umweltforschung, University of Cologne, Germany, lead author of a 2012 study. ”We don’t yet fully understand how such topographic forcing can extend to high levels, but it seems likely to be one of the key processes for the generation of gravity waves at high northern latitudes on Venus. The waves may form when a stable air flow passes over the mountains.”
First observed in 1985 by two Soviet Vega balloon probes, this atmospheric phenomenon has now also been confirmed by the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) on ESA’s Venus Express.
These gravity waves can only exist in a stably stratified, layered atmosphere. Here on Earth they’re often manifested as “wave trains” — a series of regularly-spaced waves traveling in the same direction.
Observed in multiple wavelengths (ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared), wave trains on Venus have so far mostly been found 37-43 miles (60-70 km) altitude and at higher, colder latitudes, 60-80 degrees north — which is directly above the rugged, complex geography of the Ishtar Terra highlands.
“This is an exciting result because it strengthens the case that topography is likely to be a significant influence on the atmospheric circulation of Venus,” said Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s project scientist for Venus Express.
Venus Express is Europe’s first mission to Venus. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Nov. 9, 2005 on a Soyuz-Fregat launcher and established orbit around Venus on April 11, 2006.