Experts from the Rikkyo University in Tokyo have found a HUGE structure located within the atmosphere of our neighboring planet Venus, using the Akatsuki spacecraft. According to reports, the structure is THOUSANDS of kilometers across.
The enigmatic, supermassive structure is visible moving from the top left to the bottom left of Venus. Image credit: PLANET-C
Interestingly, it wasn’t there last time we looked. The massive structure stretches over 10 kilometers in the cloud tops in Venus’ upper atmosphere. What caused confusion among experts is the fact that the ‘structure’ did not move for several days, and remained stationary over a mountainous region on the planet’s surface.
VENUS ISjust a weird planet. “With Venus and Earth, it’s like you had two chocolate cake mixes and ended up with one chocolate cake and one lemon cake,” says Ellen Stofan, NASA’s former chief scientist.
Scientists managed to spot the structure in the infrared image taken by the Akatsuki spacecraft from December 7 and 11, 2015. Akatsuki entered orbit around Venus on the 7th of December of 2015, five years behind scheduled as the spacecraft failed to enter orbit in 2010.
So what’s up with the structure? Must be aliens right?
Well, at the moment, the exact properties of the structure aren’t clear at all. However, aliens may not be the answer we are looking for as scientists suggest that the most likely explanation is that the structure is most likely the result of some sort of wave generated as air flowed over a mountain nearby, from high to low temperature, aka Gravity Wave.
Images taken over four days from Akatsuki showed the wave staying in roughly the same place. ©Planet-C
“We suppose that Highlands are a key to generating the stationary gravity waves because most of the bows—and we have found more than 15 bows so far—have appeared above the Highlands at their centers,” Makoto Taguchi from Rikkyo University says.
Speaking to IFLScience, Taguchi: “This is the first evidence of gravity wave propagation from the lower atmosphere to the middle atmosphere [of Venus].”
As the article at IFLScience explains, a westerly wind blows up to 60 times faster than the planet’s rotation, reaching speeds of more than 360 kilometers per hour (225 miles per hour). Interestingly this was one of the main reasons why scientists were a bit confused. As Taguchi noted, it is extremely surprising that the structure managed to maintain its position over a couple of days.
“There may exist a mechanism of gravity wave generation like a mountain wave or a thermal tide, which are found in the terrestrial atmosphere,” he said. “To answer this question we need more data that covers all local times and longitudes.”
Interestingly, as wired.com points out, prior to this study, scientists didn’t believe gravity waves could propagate this high up into the atmosphere, thinking they’d be confined to the lower atmosphere.