While studying the dynamics of the sun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA’s) Parker Solar Probe has come closer to Venus and captured some stunning views of the planet.
The dark feature prominently seen in the center of the image is called Aphrodite Terra, which is the largest highland region on the surface of Venus. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe catches new images of Venus! While studying the dynamics of the sun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA’s) Parker Solar Probe has come closer to Venus and captured some stunning views of the planet. The images were taken in July 2020 as the Parker Solar Probe flew close by Venus’s orbit. NASA said that during the third Venus gravity assist on July 11, 2020, some images of Venus were captured by the Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR). The image shows the planet’s nightside and has been taken from 7,693 miles away.
According to NASA, while the focus is intact on the Sun, Venus too plays an important role in the mission. Over the course of seven years, the probe is expected to come near Venus seven times in order to use the planet’s gravitational force to bend the spacecraft’s orbit. It is this orbit that allows the spacecraft to fly closer to the Sun to study and understand the star’s dynamics of the solar wind. While studying this, NASA explains at times “these passes can also yield some unique and even unexpected views of the inner solar system.”
While crossing Venus, the camera was able to detect a bright rim around the planet, which NASA suspects is likely to be the nightglow. It is to note that a nightglow can be known as light that oxygen atoms emit in the atmosphere and they recombine into molecules in the nightside. The scientists said that the dark feature prominently seen in the center of the image is called Aphrodite Terra, which is the largest highland region on the surface of Venus. The appearance is dark in colour as the temperature at this region is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) cooler when compared to the surroundings on the surface.
Scientists surprised to see the image
The image has taken scientists by surprise. According to Angelos Vourlidas, a WISPR project scientist, WISPR has been tailored and tested to capture images under visible light, and, therefore, they expected to just see the clouds. However, the camera succeeded in capturing the planet’s surface. This is expected to lead to some other exciting opportunities.
Meanwhile, Parker Solar Probe in the space under NASA’s Living with a Star program that is aimed at exploring aspects of the Sun-Earth system that have the ability to directly impact life and society. Parker Solar Probe has been in space since 2015.