NASA captured unprecedented first views of Venus’ surface from space

  • Usually covered in cloud and shrouded in mystery, NASA captured the first images of Venus’ surface from space
  • The Parker Solar Probe was able to get the first close-up photos taken in visible light
  • They’re helping scientists unpack information about the harsh conditions on the planet

Published on Mar 08, 2024 at 8:42 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on Mar 11, 2024 at 4:43 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Alessandro Renesis

Usually covered in cloud and shrouded in mystery, NASA has captured the first images of Venus’ surface from space.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was able to get the first close-up photos taken in the visible light.

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The first images were taken from orbit in July 2020 and tehn again in 2021.

WISPR was originally designed to capture faint features in the solar wind but unexpectedly captured light and dark surface features on Venus through its thick cloud cover.

The images reveal thermal emission from Venus’ surface, with hotter areas appearing lighter and cooler areas darker.

Scientists have compared WISPR images to radar-generated topographical maps to understand temperature variations with altitude, identifying cooler highland regions and hotter lowland areas.

A full analysis was published in February, 2022, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and, it turns out, they aren’t just pretty.

In fact they’re adding to scientists’ understanding of the planet that’s previously been likened to Earth’s twin.

Usually smothered in thick clouds, the images were previously impossible to capture.

The space probe used a Wide-Field Imager (WISPR) to image the entire nightside in wavelengths of the visible spectrum – the type of light that the human eye can see.

The beamed back photo data even extended into the near-infrared.

A faint glow can be seen the surface and reveal distinctive features including continental regions, plains, and plateaus.

A luminescent halo of oxygen in the atmosphere can also be seen surrounding the planet.

“We’re thrilled with the science insights Parker Solar Probe has provided thus far,” Nicola Fox, division director for the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, said.

“Parker continues to outperform our expectations, and we are excited that these novel observations taken during our gravity assist maneuver can help advance Venus research in unexpected ways.”

It’s hoped they’ll help scientists unpack more about Venus’ surface geology, what minerals are there, as well as the planet’s evolution.

It could even reveal why Venus became inhospitable – much like this ‘candyfloss’ planet – and Earth became an oasis.

“Venus is the third brightest thing in the sky, but until recently we have not had much information on what the surface looked like because our view of it is blocked by a thick atmosphere,” Brian Wood, lead author on the new study and physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, said.

“Now, we finally are seeing the surface in visible wavelengths for the first time from space.”

Venus isn’t the only planet on the radar, as NASA’s spectacular new images of Uranus will leave you speechless.

But it’s Mars dominating headlines as it was recently revealed Rolls-Royce is developing a nuclear reactor to power rockets and mine Mplanetoon and Mars.

# Tags - NASA, Space, venus


Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.