Exploring Venus’s Atmosphere: New Data Received from the Parker Probe

Photo of Venus taken by the Parker probe in July 2020

Earth and Venus formed in the same region protoplanetary disc of the same material, but then their development went in different ways. Due to the similar starting conditions of the two objects, the atmosphere of Venus is of particular interest to planetary scientists.

Recently, new information was obtained about the atmosphere of the Earth’s neighbor. It turned out that natural radio emission is present there – it may be a sign of the presence ionosphereprotecting the planet from dangerous solar radiation. What all this will lead to and what else is hidden by the atmosphere of Venus – we tell in the material.

The latest data on the atmosphere of Venus is obtained using solar probe “Parker”… It was created by NASA to study the outer corona of the Sun – the upper rarefied and hot layer of its atmosphere, consisting of plasma. Parker launched in 2018 and uses the gravity of Venus to move closer to the Sun. All this time, the probe is simultaneously studying the planet.

During the third flight within 833 km over Venus on July 11, 2020, the Parker probe recorded natural radio emission from its atmosphere. This discovery confirms that the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere are undergoing changes that correspond to 11 year cycle of the Sun

What exactly did scientists learn

For scientists to this day it remains a mystery why, under similar conditions of initial development, the Earth and Venus are so radically different from each other. Why is there life on one planet, but on another, at least on the surface, it cannot exist?

They suggest that the clue lies in the protective magnetic field of the Earth. Venus does not have such a “protective cap”. If this assumption is correct, then Venus should also have an atmosphere, but which does not linger at the surface, but goes into space. Especially during periods of increased solar activity. However, observations from ground-based telescopes show the opposite. A layer of the ionosphere, the very top of the atmosphere, was observed during periods when the Sun is least active.

The structure of the planet Venus

During the third flyby, the probe measured the upper atmosphere of Venus for 7 minutes. And as a result, I received new data that were compared with those obtained during the remote study of the planet. This is the first direct measurement of the atmosphere of Venus in nearly 30 years.

But that’s not all. Radio emissions have helped scientists calculate the density of a portion of Venus’s ionosphere. As a result, the information received was compared with the data from the NASA probe. the Pioneer program

Not Parker alone

In 1992, the Pioneer-Venus probe visited the planet. At that moment, the Sun was near the point of maximum activity in the 11-year solar cycle. While the Parker probe flew 6 months after the solar minimum.

After analyzing the data, scientists mathematically proved that there are important differences between the data collected about the atmosphere of Venus today and the data that the Pioneer probe collected many years ago.

What is the atmosphere on Venus now? It has become significantly thinner compared to previous measurements taken during the solar maximum. Scientists measured the frequencies of the radiation, calculated the density of the ionosphere around the probe. New measurements have shown that the atmosphere has become less dense. These facts confirm the guesses of scientists that the ionosphere of Venus has changed significantly over the 11-year solar cycle.

Two sisters: Venus and Earth

Now scientists need to figure out why this is happening. Experts assume that with the help of the available data, they will be able to understand what has made and is making our planet suitable for living organisms. For research, they want to compare data on the atmosphere of Venus with data on the amosphere of the Earth. This will be another small but important step towards revealing the great mysteries of the universe.

A little about Venus

Venus is called the “sister of the Earth” because both planets are similar in size and composition. However, the conditions on the surface of the two planets are radically different. Atmosphere of Venus, the densest of the Earth-like planets, is composed primarily of carbon dioxide (about 96.5% CO2). The surface of the planet is completely hidden by clouds of sulfuric acid, opaque in visible light. Venus has no natural satellites. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system with an average surface temperature of 462 ° C. It is believed that in ancient times the planet became so hot that the Earth-like oceans that it possessed completely evaporated. They left behind a desert landscape with many plate-like rocks.

What’s next? The Parker probe is now making its fourth flyby past Venus on its way to the sun. At a distance of 2 thousand km, he took new pictures. Now it remains to wait for new interesting facts about Venus, based on the latest research.

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