Click here for a printer-friendly version of this page.

NASA Scientist Confirms Light Show on Venus


Posted on: Wednesday November 28, 2007.


Artist concept of lightning on Venus. Image credit: ESA
Venus is a hellish place of high temperatures and crushing air pressure. The European Space Agency's Venus Express mission adds into this mix the first confirmation that the Venusian atmosphere generates its own lightning. The discovery is part of the Venus Express science findings that appear in a special section of the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Nature.

'In addition to all the pressure and heat, we can confirm there is lightning on Venus -- maybe even more activity than there is here on Earth,' said Christopher Russell, a NASA-sponsored scientist on Venus Express from the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of one of the Nature papers. 'Not a very good place to vacation, that is for sure.'

The discovery puts Venus in elite planetary company. Scientists currently know of only three other planetary bodies in the entire universe that generate lightning -- Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. Lightning on Venus -- as well as on any other planet -- is an important discovery because the electrical discharges drive the chemistry of an atmosphere by breaking molecules into fragments that can then join with other fragments in unexpected ways. The lightning on Venus is unique from that found on Earth, Jupiter and Saturn in that it is the only lightning known that is not associated with water clouds. Instead, on Venus, the lightning is associated with clouds of sulfuric acid.

Any future missions to the second rock from the sun may have to take into account the electrical activity in the Venusian atmosphere.

The confirming measurements of the electrical discharges were made with data obtained by the Venus Express magnetometer instrument provided by the Space Research Institute in Graz, Austria. The measurements were taken once a day for two minutes, during a period when the spacecraft was closest to Venus. A Venusian day is about 117 days long.

With its primary mission completed, Venus Express will now embark upon its extended mission to watch Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor for two more Venusian days. Among other things, it will look for the telltale infrared radiation from lava flows. In 2010, when a Japanese mission, Venus Climate Orbiter, also called Planet-C, arrives at Venus, scientists will be able to compare results from the two spacecraft.

More than 250 scientists and engineers across Europe are involved in the Venus Express mission, supported by their institutes and national space agencies. The mission also sees the contribution of scientists from Russia and Japan, as well as from NASA, which sponsors 15 American Venus Express scientists and provides support to the radio science investigation via its Deep Space Network antennas.



News Story Origin and Copyright: NASA/JPL
Click here for the original news release.




Click here for a printer-friendly version of this page.

Cool products from our online store:
Gobbledy Goop

Gobbledy Goop

On SALE today:
$4.99 $2.95 /each

Weights and Measures

Weights and Measures

On SALE today:
$4.99 $4.99 /each

Stars and Constellations Placemat

Stars and Constellations Placemat

On SALE today:
$5.99 $3.49 /each

Inventors Playing Cards

Inventors Playing Cards

On SALE today:
$9.99 $5.95 /each



Search

Loading






Science Quote

'You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.'

Marie Curie
(1867-1934)

Top Selling

Here are our physics & astronomy bestsellers:
Magnetic Levitator - Classic
KonusScience 5 Way Microscope Kit
Snap Circuits Jr.
CHEM C2000 Chemistry SuperKit v2.0
Periscope
Space Wonder Gyroscope
Solar Radiometer
Mini Plasma Ball
Smart Robot 4M Kit
130 Electronics Projects Kit

Sponsors

USC University of Southern California Dornsife College Physics and Astronomy Department McMaster University Physics and Astronomy Department