Space

Combination radio/radar imaging produces stunning view of Venus

Combination radio/radar imagin...
The image was compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories (Image: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo)
The image was compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories (Image: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo)
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The image was compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories (Image: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo)
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The image was compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories (Image: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo)
Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds (Image: NSSDC Photo Gallery)
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Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds (Image: NSSDC Photo Gallery)

A team of astronomers combining radio data from the Green Bank Telescope, West Virginia, and data from the radar transmitter at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, have compiled a stunning new view of Venus. Often described as Earth's twin due to its similar proportions, capturing high quality images of the inhospitable planet has traditionally been a challenging prospect thanks to extreme atmospheric conditions. However, by combining observations from the instruments to create a more complete picture of Venus, astronomers can begin to observe how this enigmatic celestial object evolves over time.

Venus is clearly visible in the night sky, appearing as an incredibly bright spot in the west depending on the time of the year. The planet is wreathed in dense clouds made up predominantly of carbon dioxide, that serve to reflect the Sun's light, accounting for its prominence in the sky at night, while heating the planet's surface to temperatures in excess of 470º C (880º F).

Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds (Image: NSSDC Photo Gallery)
Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds (Image: NSSDC Photo Gallery)

Surface Maps of Venus had previously been obtained by NASA's Magellan spacecraft, which, while orbiting Venus, used radar imaging to pierce through the thick clouds. The new image did not require expensive assets in orbit, instead utilizing a combination of instruments using ground based bistatic radar to pierce through both the interference present within our own atmosphere, and the more turbulent atmosphere cloaking Venus.

The finished image contains a wealth of geological features, and the high level of detail to which the surface is captured will allow astronomers to accurately map the short term evolution of the planet's surface and subsurface activity, pinpointing areas of increased volcanic activity and generally improving our understanding of Earth's twin.

Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

3 comments
Roland Riese
The sun is not heating up Venus, there is no light getting anywhere near the surface of Venus. 70% of sun light is reflected and 30% of the sunlight is absorbed by the upper atmosphere of Venus. The Venus sky is pitch black as confirmed by the Russian Venus probe. But the very dense CO2 atmosphere is trapping the heat generated by the planets geological activities and not by the CO2 trapping sun light.
windykites
Roland makes a very interesting point. Venus appears very bright, so this does show that a lot of sunlight is reflected, but there is also the infrared radiation which may well penetrate the atmosphere, and then get trapped by CO2. I can't imagine that the temperature of Venus is solely caused by the internal geological processes. What I am wondering is, the atmosphere of Venus is carbon dioxide, which as far as I know is a colourless gas, so what makes the clouds opaque?it surely can't be dust.
Bruce Rodd
It's atmosphere contains Sulfuric acid and sulfur particles which accounts for the clouds. Venus is not opaque to all wavelengths, demostrated by the fact that the Russian Venera probe was able to send back pictures to it's orbiter.