AUG 21, 2017 12:44 PM PDT

Scientists Dig Deeper to Learn More About Venus' Atmospheric Superrotation

Earth and Venus share a lot of qualities with one another, but some striking differences set the two planets apart. Among them, the atmospheric conditions are so harsh on Venus that life can’t exist; nevertheless, the neighboring world remains a hotspot for scientific study.

Although Venus is similar to Earth in some ways, it's very different in most others.

Image Credit: WikiImages/Pixabay

Over the years, scientists have discovered how Venus’ atmosphere rotates significantly faster than the surface of the planet does. The surface takes 243 Earth days to complete a single rotation, and the atmosphere takes just under four Earth days to do the same.

When a planet's atmosphere rotates so much more quickly than surface does, space scientists call this phenomenon "superrotation."

The cause of the superrotation has eluded scientists for years, so an international team of researchers sought to learn more about the driving mechanisms behind these unusual rotational properties.

The findings, which were published in the journal Nature Astronomy, seem to point to some peculiar waves residing in the planet’s atmosphere. While they may not be the sole cause behind Venus' atmospheric superrotation, researchers agree that they’re a critical component to the behavior.

Related: Would you be able to hear someone speak on Venus?

The team turned to data collected by the VeRa instrument onboard the ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft. Venus Express orbits the planet closely, sending data about its atmosphere back to scientists on Earth for analysis.

This information proved useful, providing researchers both the horizontal and vertical wave pattern data they needed to formulate a hypothesis.

It became apparent from these multi-angle observations that these waves were partially responsible, along with high-speed wind turbulence, for the atmospheric superrotation on Venus.

“We were able to relate the stationary gravity waves found at higher altitudes with the surface elevations of Venus,” study co-author Dr. Silvia Tellmann from the University of Cologne said.

“Hence, the waves can be explained with wind currents caused by topographical obstacles. We assume that these stationary waves are substantial for the continuity of the superrotation in the atmosphere of Venus.”

Related: Venus' clouds may reveal more secrets about the planet's surface

Many questions continue to go unexplained, but the fuzzy picture of Venus' atmospheric conditions becomes clearer as scientists continue digging for answers.

It should be interesting to learn what other discoveries scientists will make as they continue studying Venus. Perhaps someday, we'll know without a doubt exactly what causes these unique atmospheric attributes.

Source: University of Cologne

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
NASA's InSight Lander Captured the Sound of Martian Wind
It’s been less than two weeks since NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander touch...
DEC 19, 2018
Technology
DEC 19, 2018
Deep Learning Improves Cloud Detection Methods
To understand the workings of earth systems, atmospheric scientists often search data images for the clouds as part of their research. However, the manual...
JAN 07, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 07, 2019
Chinese Rover Begins Scientific Exploration on Moon's 'Dark Side'
The Moon orbits the Earth just as the Earth orbits the Sun, but the Moon’s orbit is tidally-locked. In essence, this means that the Moon rotates once...
JAN 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 13, 2019
Watch SpaceX Loft 10 Satellites Into Space At Once for Iridium
On Friday, SpaceX lofted a total of 10 Iridium satellites into space with a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket ignited its engines on a launch pa...
JAN 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2019
NASA Wants Astronauts to Visit the Moon Again, And Here's How
It’s been a while since NASA sent astronauts to the Moon – more than four decades, in fact. But that doesn’t mean NASA doesn’t want...
FEB 05, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 05, 2019
NASA Loses Contact with MarCO CubeSat Duo
When NASA launched its InSight mission to study the neighboring planet of Mars, the payload also comprised of two briefcase-sized CubeSats that were collec...
Loading Comments...