Feeds

Venus Express celebrates 500 days around Venus

Lots of data, struggling with a bottleneck

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Basking in four times the radiation its sister craft, Mars Express, receives, Venus Express is celebrating its 500th day around, and 500th orbit of, our twin planet.

The clouds of Venus pictured on eight consecutive orbits

Although most of the one terabit of data that has been sent back is still being written up (brace yourselves for a flurry of papers some time fairly soon), there have been some startling discoveries.

For one, the planet's atmosphere is much more changeable than scientists expected. Recent images collected by the Visible and Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIRTIS) have shown the atmospheric structure changes almost daily, although there are some clear patterns.

Giuseppe Piccioni, co-principal investigator for VIRTIS on board Venus Express, says: "It seems that the mid latitudes form a sort of transition region with mostly laminar flow. Moving equatorward, there is more convective flow in the atmosphere, whereas the polar region is dominated by huge vortices."

(Laminar flow describes how parallel layers of a fluid or a gas may flow past one another with no real disruption between the layers.)

The vortices at the poles are fascinating for astro-meteorologists. The giant double storms, spanning 2000km, have been seen at both north and south poles. As with other regions of the atmosphere, the vortices are not fixed, as astronomers have observed changes in the polar weather systems on sequential orbital passes.

Venus Express is doing all its science in an incredibly harsh environment, but the modifications to the Mars Express design on which it was based have worked well. Engineers say the craft is stable. The biggest challenge facing researchers is the speed at which data can be transmitted back to Earth.

Last month, Venus and Earth swung past each other in the orbits around the sun. Venus Express was on the nearside, and could send data back at maximum speed. But when Venus is on the other side of the sun, the fastest data rate available will be 22kbps.

And you thought your broadband connection was a bit wonky. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.