Scientists have discovered mysterious patterns of streaks that cross enormous distances between the clouds of Venus.
The discovery is giving us a new vision of the brutal conditions and climate on the strange planet, the second closest to the Sun.
Based on advanced computer modeling, the team believes that moving air caused by polar jet currents, similar to those on Earth, could be responsible for these irregularities – which may be about 10,000 longer. kilometers (over 6,200 miles).
Models are slowly entering the field thanks to the infrared scanning technology on board the Akatsuki space probe: it is able to scan under the thick clouds of sulfuric acid, 45-70 kilometers (28-43 mi) in height, which usually keep the surface and lower cloud cover of Venus out of sight of our telescopes.
"Here we are able, for the first time, to reproduce the models of the stria structure observed, as regions of strong descending flows that develop in the high-resolution global simulations of the Venus atmosphere ", explains the team of researchers.
While Venus and Earth share similar dimensions and gravitational attraction, and possibly similar polar-jet effects, their atmospheres are very different: think of the poisonous air, the sulfuric acid rain and the torrid temperatures, which make a lot difficult landing of a spacecraft on Venus.
There are also the high-altitude east winds of 360 kilometers per hour (227 miles per hour) moving around the whole of Venus in about four days on Earth.
However, several layers of the atmosphere of Venus have different characteristics: it is precisely under these winds that the Akatsuki probe manages to peek, to trace the shapes of the lower clouds.
And the discoveries like the giant stripes here detailed can tell us more about what is happening in the atmosphere as a whole. While we have seen parts of these models for decades, this latest study adds a new level of detail and a plausible explanation of what actually causes them.
Scientists used advanced computer models to match models of clouds with data tests and conclude that differences in temperature and pressure of air (baroclinic instability), as well as the strong winds of rotation mentioned before , they are causing the streaks effect.
We have never seen similar patterns in clouds on Earth, and the phenomenon could be unique to Venus and its atmosphere.
The planet remains a fascinating subject to study for astronomers, whether it is to identify the terrain patterns on the surface or to map the chaotic winds that are agitated when the sun sets.
One day, we may be able to get much more accurate readings of what's happening on Venus – we just need to figure out how to build an electronics that can survive those surface temperatures of 4 60 degrees Celsius (860 degrees Fahrenheit).
Balloons flying in colder and quieter air above clouds could be a way to take a closer look at the planet.
For now, there's a lot more to investigate – the team's model does not consider the effects of photochemical reactions and radiation levels, for example – and you can expect to hear more from Akatsuki and the simulation of the AFES-Venus computer in the future.
"Although we discussed a possible mechanism of planetary-scale structure formation as above, we should note that the details of the disturbances, instabilities and equilibrium of angular momentum in our simulation are not yet clear and remain to be explored. ", conclude the researchers.
The research was published in Nature Communications .