Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard reveals the first visible light images of the surface of Venus, which were captured by the Parker Solar Probe.
According to NASA, in two recent flybys, Parker used its Wide-Field Imager (WISPR) to image the entire nightside of Venus in wavelengths of the visible spectrum (the type of light that the human eye can see) extending into the near-infrared.
“The images, combined into a video, reveal a faint glow from the surface that shows distinctive features like continental regions, plains, and plateaus. A luminescent halo of oxygen in the atmosphere can also be seen surrounding the planet,” explained NASA.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched in August of 2018 with a mission to explore the solar wind near the Sun. A team of experts led by Dr. Brian Wood of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory recently published a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describing the significance of the images of Venus acquired by the Parker Solar Probe.
“A series of seven Venus gravity assist (VGA) flybys are required to push the perihelion of the spacecraft orbit closer to the Sun, with the goal of eventually reaching a perihelion distance of just under 10 R⊙ from Sun-center after the final Venus encounter (VGA7) on November 6, 2024,” wrote the study authors.
“As of this writing, five flybys have occurred so far (VGA1–VGA5). These encounters are providing new information about the planetary environment, particularly its interaction with the solar wind.”
“Although Venus is the brightest planet in the sky, its surface was long a mystery due to the opacity of its thick atmosphere. Optical images of the planet show a featureless white disk, dominated by scattered sunlight from the impenetrable atmosphere,” explained the researchers.
Video Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer