Hot Wind

Hot Wind

Sent by: Venus Express | From: Venus | Released: Sep, 2008 | Credit: ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF

Venus explorers have used cloud-piercing instruments onboard the Venus Express orbiter to make the first three-dimensional studies of the planet’s intense winds. At higher altitudes, winds howl at 370 km/h. In this image, the daylight side is shown in visible light and the night side in infrared. Learn more.

The Evening Star: A Double Take

The Evening Star: a Double Take

Sent by: Venus Express | From: Venus | Released: Aug, 2008 | Credit: ESA

People often ask why so many pictures from robotic space probes are presented in black-and-white or in false color. This image is one example that shows why. It’s a composite of two recently-released shots of Venus from Europe’s Venus Express orbiter.

On the left is what the planet looks like in visible light: a nearly featureless orb of highly-reflective clouds. That makes for a brilliant and beautiful ‘evening star’ or ‘morning star’ in the night sky here on Earth, but it doesn’t provide much scientific information.

On the right is a shot taken at about the same time and position through a filter sensitive to ultraviolet light, which the human eye can’t see. The result is in one sense “false color” but in another sense is even more true to life, revealing new details about the planet’s turbulent atmosphere that would otherwise remain hidden.

None of this is to say there’s no value in natural color shots, but exploration requires looking at alien horizons through a variety of filters, figuratively and literally.

Unfriendly Neighbor

Unfriendly Neighbor

Sent by: Venus Express | From: Venus | Released: Aug, 2008 | Credit: ESA

About the same size as the Earth, Venus is not a welcoming place: surface temperatures above 470 degrees Celsius, air pressure equivalent to 900 meters underwater, and clouds of sulphuric acid. This ultraviolet picture, which I colored to draw out highlights in the clouds, comes from a newly-released treasure trove of raw imagery from the Venus Express orbiter.