First Detailed Images of Venus's Surface Underneath the Layer of Clouds

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 - 11:14AM
Astronomy
Solar System
Space Imagery
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 - 11:14AM
First Detailed Images of Venus's Surface Underneath the Layer of Clouds

Venus may be our closest neighbor, but it is still relatively elusive, mostly as a result of its thick cloud layer that obscures its surface from most Earth telescopes. Now, the astronomers of National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope and Arecibo Observatory have created images based on radar projection data that reveals minute details of the Morning/Evening Star's surface:

 

Venus

[Credit: NSF]

 

According to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the above image is a composite of radar data collected over several years, and provides the most detailed look we've ever had at Venus:

 

From earthbound optical telescopes, the surface of Venus is shrouded beneath thick clouds made mostly of carbon dioxide. To penetrate this veil, probes like NASA's Magellan spacecraft use radar to reveal remarkable features of this planet, like mountains, craters, and volcanoes.

 

Recently, by combining the highly sensitive receiving capabilities of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the powerful radar transmitter at the NSF's Arecibo Observatory, astronomers were able to make remarkably detailed images of the surface of this planet without ever leaving Earth.

 

The researchers hope that by attaining a more complete picture of Venus's surface, particularly geological features like volcanoes, and comparing various images of the surface over time, they will be able to gauge parts of Venus's geologic history and subsurface conditions.

 

"It is painstaking to compare radar images to search for evidence of change, but the work is ongoing," said Bruce Campbell, Senior Scientist with the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. "In the meantime, combining images from this and an earlier observing period is yielding a wealth of insight about other processes that alter the surface of Venus."

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