The Parker Solar Probe reaches another milestone in space exploration and manages to show the surface of Venus to humans for the first time.
Venus is our closest neighbor besides Mars, its proximity makes it the third brightest object in the sky. Despite this, until a few days ago we did not know its surface because a dense atmosphere blocks the view. But in yet another milestone attributed to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the surface of Venus has finally been deciphered and the images are simply breathtaking.
Venus surface revealed
With the help of the Wide-field Imager instrument installed on the Parker Solar Probe (WISPR), researchers were able to observe the Venusian surface for the first time. They discovered geological features similar to those that extend across the Earth. Highlands, plateaus, and plains rise on our cosmic neighbor, researchers say these discoveries could help us better understand the early formation of Venus.
Despite its proximity and for being known as ‘Earth’s evil twin’, the Venusian planet has been a complete mystery to mankind. So much so that most space exploration efforts are aimed at Mars, because of the difficulty of studying Venus.
For all we know, Venus is very similar to our planet; although something happened in its development that turned its atmosphere into one of the most hostile in the Solar System. It is made up of extremely thick and toxic clouds that precipitate drops of sulfuric acid. For this reason, its study has become an almost impossible challenge. For its close exploration completely defies human technology, which would not be able to withstand such hostile conditions.
Using data from the WISPR instrument, NASA experts were able to peer beneath the thick Venusian atmosphere. Although it must be said that like almost all space exploration images, these are far from those captured by the human eye.
WISPR is optimized for visible light, its vision expands far beyond the electromagnetic spectrum that humans are capable of observing, as you can see in this NASA video.
Thanks to this, even the temperature variations on the surface of the night side of Venus could be captured. Here “it is so hot that the rocky surface of Venus glows visibly. Like a piece of iron out of a forge,” explains Brian Wood, astrophysicist and member of the Naval Research Laboratory.
In contrast, WISPR was unable to capture the infrared variations on the daytime side of Venus, which is heated by the Sun.
The images are a milestone in space exploration because the infrared spectrum can provide insight into the structure of the surface. This is because minerals conduct and release heat in different ways. Therefore, this data could be used to decipher the mineralogy that makes up the Venusian surface.
This is perhaps the largest finding ever made of Earth’s evil twin. Although it remains to wait for further research based on the data obtained to learn more about it.