NASA solar probe sees Venus glowing ‘like an iron from the forge’ – CNET

NASA solar probe sees Venus glowing ‘like an iron from the forge’ – CNET

This view of Venus comes from the Parker Solar Probe’s fourth flyby and shows the nightside surface of the planet.

NASA/APL/NRL

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on a daring mission to study the sun, but it’s picked up a hobby along the way: studying Venus. On Wednesday, the space agency unveiled stunning new views of the planet that’s been called Earth’s twin. 

“Smothered in thick clouds, Venus’ surface is usually shrouded from sight,” NASA said in a statement. “But in two recent flybys of the planet, Parker used its Wide-Field Imager, or Wispr, to image the entire nightside in wavelengths of the visible spectrum — the type of light that the human eye can see — and extending into the near-infrared.”

Blazing hot, rocky Venus is an object of fascination, especially after a tantalizing study in 2020 found possible signs of a gas that hints at the potential for life in its clouds.   

NASA had already shared a surprising and lovely view of Venus in early 2021 that showed what the Wispr instrument was capable of seeing. The spacecraft captured the surface views of the planet’s nightside during flybys in 2020 and 2021. Parker uses the flybys to help sling itself closer to the sun for its main mission.

NASA shared the new peek at Venus’ enigmatic surface by way of a video highlighting the images and science.  

In Parker’s view, lighter areas are hotter and darker areas are cooler. A notable surface feature is Aphrodite Terra, a large highland region that looks like a broad, diffuse shadow in the probe’s images.

“The surface of Venus, even on the nightside, is about 860 degrees. It’s so hot that the rocky surface of Venus is visibly glowing, like a piece of iron pulled from a forge,” said Naval Research Laboratory physicist Brian Wood, lead author of a study on Parker’s Venus findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on Wednesday.

The images are gorgeous to look at, but scientists are also using them to study the planet’s geology and investigate minerals on the surface. Parker’s perspective could also help answer questions about the planet’s volcanic past.  

Venus will soon become an even more well-studied planet thanks to a “triple crown” of planned missions from NASA and the European Space Agency. Scientists plan to look into the planet’s history and learn how and why it ended up as an inferno planet while Earth became hospitable. They’re also interested in finding out if it might once have been habitable or may even have microbial life in its clouds now.

Parker Solar Probe will get another shot at imaging Venus’ nightside with a final flyby in late 2024, hopefully giving us another intriguing glance at our planet’s mysterious, hot-tempered twin.

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