Giant Streaks Discovered in the Clouds Covering Venus

Giant Streaks Discovered in the Clouds Covering Venus

Giant Streaks Discovered in the Clouds Covering Venus

Japanese scientists found massive streaks in the atmosphere of Venus by making use of Akatsuki and AFES-Venus.

The second planet from the Sun and Earth’s ‘sister’ planet, Venus has been displaying rather odd behavior. Its surface is obscured by a thick layer of gases. While probes have been sent to the planet many-a-times, there’s so much yet unknown about the planet. Unusual weather and odd patterned wind are nothing new for Venus. However, a Japanese research team has spotted two symmetrical giant streaks in the planet’s atmosphere. One of them covers the Northern Hemisphere and the other mirrors it on the southern part of the planet. Both of these massive streaks are spread on a planetary scale.

The Discovery

‘Akatsuki’, a Japanese Venus Climate Orbiter, uses infrared cameras to look beyond the thick atmosphere. The cameras are capable of viewing the lower cloud levels in great detail. The data gathered by Akatsuki was used along with a simulation program named ‘AFES-Venus’. The software is capable of running a complex simulation of Venus’ atmosphere. Another version of this program exists for the atmosphere on Earth. Both of them work similarly except for one difference which is based on the clarity of the atmosphere of each planet (Earth’s atmosphere is clear compared to the cloudy one covering Venus). According to the data, the streaks are huge: stretching 10,000 kilometers across the sky while being hundreds of kilometers wide.

How did the Streaks Form?

Although Earth shares a lot of its features, this phenomenon is totally limited to Venus. Ironically enough, the streaks can be explained using other atmospheric models of Earth. It seems the polar jet streams (tight wind jets caused by heat) along with atmospheric wind and pressure instabilities cause huge vortexes to be formed. Large-scale atmospheric flow patterns of Venus, caused by the planet’s rotation, stretch these vortexes and causes them to appear as a long streaks.

Akatsuki and Venus

Akatsuki has been orbiting Venus since the end of 2015. During this phase, it has gathered data and made observations so we can know more about our “sister” planet. Even before Venus’ atmosphere was probed, AFES-Venus was used to run simulations about the atmosphere. The program uses a supercomputer system of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) to run these complex simulations. Before the launch of Akatsuki, the data used to create these simulations was rather inaccurate. Contrary to that, the data provided by the probe yields accurate results.

What do we Learn from this?

So far, scientists have been studying the atmosphere of Venus in two dimensions, East and West. This new discovery now allows them to view the planet’s atmosphere in three dimensions. However, the explanation provided for these streaks may still be inaccurate as other numerous factors must be added to the equation. The data provided by Akatsuki is of great importance as the probe uses state-of-the-art technology to gather data about the eccentric planet. After all, Venus is the odd planet in our solar system. The team believes that they can reveal a lot more through further investigation. They said,

“We need to understand these mechanisms to evaluate the robustness or sensitivity of the speculated formation mechanism presented here. However, we keep these further investigations for our future studies.”

The Twin Planets

Even though Venus is often referred to as the “sister” planet of the Earth, both are different worlds in many ways. Despite the fact that both of them have striking similarities such as size, gravity, pressure, and temperatures at the core, Venus is not as comfortable to live on as Earth is. The Sulfuric acid atmosphere renders the planet inhabitable on the surface. However, things improve considerably as we move to the upper atmosphere. In fact, researchers believe there may be microbes living in the upper part of the atmosphere and this may explain the dark patches in the atmosphere of Venus. These patches indicate the existence of life by changing occasionally. Having said that, Venus still has a lot of information for humanity to find out.

The Bottom Line

The research carried out by the Japanese team can be translated into a “leaps and bounds” addition to the limited knowledge we possess about Venus. The puzzle of this planet may get solved pretty soon as even more complex simulations will be run in the future, with the hopes of unveiling whatever secrets there are below the thick atmosphere of the planet.

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