The Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s closest eye to the sun, He was buzzed by Venus last summer to seek help from gravity when he took a stunning new photo of the mysterious night side of the planet, revealing a surprisingly clear view of the surface of Venus.
The spacecraft was launched in 2018, and is in the midst of its seven-year journey to study the sun from 4 million miles away, the closest thing any human-made object has ever gone before. To do this, Parker Solar Probe needs to use the gravity of Venus to help tighten its orbit around the Sun through a series of seven flights, and propel itself closer to the star with each passing.
These scenic walkways are valuable opportunities for capturing intriguing shots of Venus.
The image, taken by Parker Solar Probe Wide Field (WISPR), came during its third flyby of Venus in July 2020, and the scientists were shocked. They expected WISPR to capture the thick, carbon-dioxide-rich clouds of Venus that would normally obstruct surface view. Instead, the camera was able to see through the clouds and revealed the dark shape of Aphrodite Terra, an elevated region of Venus near the equator that scientists say is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit colder than its surroundings.
“WISPR has effectively captured the thermal emissions of the surface of Venus,” said Brian Wood, an astrophysicist and WISPR scientist at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, in a report. NASA statement. Wood noticed that the image was similar to Those captured by the Japanese Venus probe It is currently analyzing Venus, which can capture light at near-infrared wavelengths.
The revelation could mean one of two things.
WISPR may have demonstrated an unexpected ability to sense infrared light, which, if correct, could unlock new possibilities for scientists to study dust orbiting around the sun. “This surprising observation took the WISPR team back to the lab to measure the sensitivity of the device to infrared light,” Michael Buckley, director of communications at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, wrote in a NASA blog.
But if not, the appearance of Aphrodite Terra could mean that WISPR has detected a previously unknown opening in the thick floral clouds, a “window” that reveals parts of the planet’s surface.
To find out, mission teams identified more nocturnal snapshots of Venus on their last flight last weekend. They plan to post more photos and analysis by late April.
The WISPR image revealed other impressive features of Venus. Discovered a glowing rim in the planet’s upper atmosphere that scientists believe could be a “night glow”. Exclusively for the nocturnal part of Venus, the faint luminescence may be caused by the collision of oxygen and nitrogen atoms coming from the side of the planet exposed to the sun.
And NASA said scientists are still studying the exact cause of the weak lines of light beaming through the image frame. They can be called charged particles Cosmic raysSmall grains of space dust reflect sunlight, or “particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after colliding with those dust grains.”
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