January 21, 2013
ESA Releases New Video Of Venus Just Miles Above Its Surface
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a video of a day in the life of the Venus Express, the spacecraft currently orbiting the second planet from the Sun.
The video begins with a view 41,000 miles above Venus´ south pole, looking down at its southern polar vortex. "From this bird´s-eye view, half of the planet is in darkness, the ℠terminator´ marking the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet," said ESA in a description of the video.
During the film, features on smaller and smaller scales are revealed as the spacecraft eventually orbits just 155 miles above the planet´s north pole, with some clouds obstructing the view. From here, the Venus Express flies away from the north pole, earning itself a better, clearer view.
The movie is based on images taken by the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera over a period of 18 hours during one of its 24-hour orbits around the planet in January last year. ESA said the footage was compiled from public data in the Venus Express data archive.
The Venus Monitoring Camera observed the planet in ultraviolet wavelengths, helping to unveil patterns in the cloud tops that cloak the planet about 43 miles above the surface.
Patterns of bright and dark markings seen during the video are caused by variations in an unknown absorbing chemical at the Venus cloud tops, according to ESA.
The space agency also said the clouds are driven by extremely strong winds, sweeping around the planet once every four days. "By comparison, the planet takes 243 days to complete one rotation about its own axis," ESA wrote in the description of the video.
Venus Express first began its exploration around the planet in 2006. The ESA spacecraft carries seven scientific instruments onboard which helped it to investigate the surface, atmosphere and ionosphere of the second planet in our Solar System.