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Up close and personal with Venus3 min read

March 9, 2021 3 min read


Up close and personal with Venus3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe caught a stunning new image of Venus.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations:
The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 to study the sun and its many mysteries. Over the course of seven years, this Probe will come closer to the sun than any spacecraft before it.

What is Venus’s role in the probe?

Venus is essential to this mission as the spacecraft uses its gravity to bend its orbit moving closer and closer to the sun. This is called gravity assist. So, Venus is the not-so-little helper that the Probe needs to get the results everyone at NASA’s base is waiting for!

Mighty responsibility for the second-brightest object in Earth’s sky, isn’t it?

The spacecraft’s Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, was taking images while crossing Venus, and it captured its nightside! Nightside is the side away from the sun.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations:
The WISPR is designed to capture images of the sun’s corona (do not worry! The virus has not reached the brightest star. Corona refers to the outer atmosphere of the sun) in visible light. It can also catch solar wind in action (solar wind is the stream of particles flowing out of the sun). But when it came to Venus, the WISPR peered through the thick layer of clouds surrounding the planet to reveal it in all its gleaming glory!

Let’s study the image

Sourced from CNN. ©NASA

What do you see? Do you see a white glow around the planet? And a few visible streaks in the sky? What about a visible dark center?

How about now?

The faint glow that scientists believe to be a “nightglow” is light that is emanating from oxygen molecules combining to form molecules in the nighttime.

These bright streaks are because of space dust or cosmic rays reflecting sunlight. The streaks look different owing to the speed of the Probe.

The dark centre is Aphrodite Terra, Venus’ largest highland region. It looks dark because its temperature is 85 degree Fahrenheit lower than the surrounding areas.

The image was taken 7,693 miles away from the planet.

What to expect from the Probe?

The Probe just conducted its fourth flyby of Venus on February 20, the images of which will be available to NASA by the end of April. This flyby has set the Probe on course for its eighth and ninth pass by the sun, which will occur on April 29 and August 9, respectively.

The Probe breaks its own record with each of these passes, by moving a million miles closer than the pass before. This pass will bring the Probe at a distance of 6.5 million miles from the sun’s surface.

This Probe will not only reveal much about the sun, as envisioned in the mission, but also add to our knowledge about Venus!

Are you as close to the planet as the Probe? Find out by taking this quiz:

Sourced from CNN.

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