Researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science have discovered a 6,200-mile-long, bow-shaped anomaly in Venus' upper atmosphere that they believe to be the largest stationary "gravity wave" ever recorded in our solar system, a recent study in Nature Geoscience reports.
The researchers propose that the phenomenon is the result of a gravity wave that is generated as the lower atmosphere passes over mountains and then propagates upwards through Venus' thick atmosphere.
Over the course of a four day period, the structure, which stretched all the way from the north to the south pole of the planet, maintained its position despite being bombarded by 359 kilometre per hour winds. "This is the first evidence of gravity wave propagation from the lower atmosphere to the middle atmosphere".
Gravity waves occur on planets, even Earth. The planet's sulfuric acid atmosphere is 90 times denser than ours, and those greenhouse gases produce surface temperatures of 850 degrees F, while winds constantly whip the planet at up to 250 miles per hour. This is not the same as a gravitational wave which is another ripple but in space-time. That radar data was able to pierce through the thick atmosphere of Venus to see down to the planet's surface. However, it was not clear how the Venus wave was created. The odd feature was observed by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akatsuki spacecraft, which entered Venus' orbit in late 2015.
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"This means that conditions of the lower atmosphere may affect the dynamics of the higher atmosphere by momentum transfer of the gravity waves". When scientists attempted to observe it again a month later, it had disappeared. Similar waves have also been observed in the Earth's atmosphere where they cause disturbance and interfere with the weather and cause turbulence. "But the air particles are moving up and down, very much as the water particles are moving up and down".
As this massive, bow-shaped gravity wave could help researchers better understand how the surface of Venus and its atmosphere interact, it could also yield clues into that unusual super rotation of Venus's atmosphere, both Dr. Tsang and Dr. Wilson suggest.
A monster wave roils in the atmosphere of Venus. "Because most of the bows - and we have found more than 15 bows so far - have appeared above the highlands at their centres". Scientists have observed atmospheric gravity waves on Venus before: the European Space Agency's Venus Express spotted several before the end of its mission in 2014. It tells that the probe arrived at the planet on December 7th 2015 and when the Akatsuki changed its orbit, the spacecraft lost sight of it on December 12th 2015. Having initially failed to enter the orbit of Venus, it spent five years going round the Sun before being pushed back on track in 2015.