Gravity Wave Spotted on Venus: Japanese Orbiter Detects Anomaly

Posted January 18, 2017

They really couldn't have missed the bow-shaped feature that appeared in the longwave infrared images.

However, astronomers have reported the sighting of a bright, stationary bow-shaped structure in those very clouds, forming one of the largest waves ever seen in the solar system. It is a lifeless planet, with hottest planetary surface (447°C) in our solar system, and a thick atmosphere which harbors clouds of sulfuric acid.

Gravity waves, however, can be mined for clues about this hidden world, where they were forged. The structure persists in the rapidly moving, super-rotating winds at the cloud level.

Gravity waves are not to be confused with the recently detected cosmological phenomenon known as gravitational waves, which are caused by the bending of space and time due to extremely massive objects, such as colliding black holes. The odd thing about this wave is not just the fact that it was huge but also that it remained stationary above a mountainous region on the planet's surface.

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On this point Dr Wilson told BBC News: "I think we should give them stretches nearly from pole to pole, which is phenomenal in distance". Indeed, the atmospheric bulge is located above Aphrodite Terra, a continent-sized region of highlands. Several gravity waves had been observed before in the atmosphere of Venus. As gravity attempts to restore equilibrium, it overshoots, causing a wave effect. You can see the wave remains stationary. It never got these attractive images which this Japanese spacecraft has now revealed.

However, the team said they do not know how the gravity wave formed or how it ended up in the upper atmosphere.

Computer models show a gravity wave on Venus could propagate to such an enormous size and altitude, but more work is needed to understand the planet's near-surface conditions, the scientists said.

As such, this may reveal that researchers can study the lower and middle atmosphere of Venus by looking at what is going on at the cloud tops.

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As Akatsuki continues to orbit around Venus, scientists are hoping to discover more ground-breaking information.

Anatomy on a gravity wave on Venus. That sounds all good, right?

Quite common here on Earth, gravity waves are created when an atmosphere or body of water is disrupted, like when a tide washes over a sandbar. The structure appeared near the evening terminator on the daytime side of Venus. The opposite is true on Earth, as the atmosphere rotates about every two weeks. "We suggest that winds in the deep atmosphere may be spatially or temporally more variable than previously thought", the study reads. According to scientists, the wave was observed for a few days, before it suddenly disappeared.

Tsang agrees that the fact that the authors' report that the feature was not there when the orbiter looked back at the region later is puzzling. The researchers found that temperatures within the bow were much higher than outside. This didn't make sense for the simple reason that Venus' upper atmosphere moves at a staggering 100 metres per second. Venus has rocks and mountains like earth that's why it's also called earth's twin. It tells that the probe arrived at the planet on December 7th 2015 and when the Akatsuki changed its orbit, the spacecraft lost sight of it on December 12th 2015. After orbiting the sun for five years, engineers were able to devise a different way to enter orbit around Venus, and it worked. The spacecraft has started beaming data to JAXA.

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