Published: Wed, January 18, 2017
Medical | By Benjamin Edwards

Venus wave may be Solar System's biggest

Venus wave may be Solar System's biggest

Scientists have observed the presence of gravity waves in the upper atmosphere of Venus before - the European Space Agency's Venus Express orbiter found the telltale cloud shapes over the smaller Ishtar Terra region in 2014 - but those gravity waves were not almost as large as the planet-spanning feature found by JAXA.

Remarkably, the shape seems tied to the slowly rotating terrain below, particularly a high region called Aphrodite Terra, which is up to 5km high and the size of Africa near the equator.

On Venus, clouds sweep by at 350km per hour (217 miles per hour), which is much faster than the speed at which the planet rotates beneath.

"Numerical simulations provide preliminary support for this interpretation, but the formation and propagation of a mountain gravity wave remain hard to reconcile with assumed near-surface conditions on Venus".

The wave was captured by JAXA's Akatsuki spacecraft as it appeared like a bright spot in the images, the European Space Agency have stated that these waves are found in Earth's atmosphere as well.

"[Venus Express] started to see some hints that the atmospheric wind pattern was slightly different over some of these highlands", Dr. Wilson says in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Not to be mistaken for gravitational waves, which are ripples in spacetime, gravity waves tend to come in the form of turbulence in our own atmosphere or surface waves in the ocean.

"If you have a stream and it's flowing over a rock, you get the gravity waves propagating upwards through the water".

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'When a gravity wave propagates in an atmosphere, air parcels vertically oscillate by a balance of buoyancy and gravity forces, ' Taguchi said. It is a pair of high and low temperature regions with amplitude about 5 km. the surprising fact is that it remained at the same position despite the geographical atmospheric super rotation. When scientists attempted to observe it again a month later, it had disappeared.

On Earth, a similar windy effect creates ocean waves at the beach and occurs with clouds on mountain ranges as well - though not to the very big extent as seen on Venus.

This bow-shaped patch is stagnant and is not considered to be a new phenomenon on Venus, just seen for the first time. "We suggest that winds in the deep atmosphere may be spatially or temporally more variable than previously thought", the newly published study in stated.

Venus is a odd planet.

And, Wilson adds, as Venus is nearly the exact same size as Earth and quite a nearby neighbor, studying it could also tell us more about how our own planet's atmospheric system works.

Astronomers first found the unusual feature in late 2015 when JAXA's Akatsuki orbiter - a spacecraft created to analyze both the atmospheric dynamics and cloud physics of Venus - detected a odd structure in the upper Venusian atmosphere.

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