A Giant Planetary-Scale Cloud Has Been Discovered Hiding on Venus for at Least 35 Years

This newly-discovered wave can sometimes extend as far as 4660 miles (7500 kilometres) across the equator.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Something has been hiding in the cloudy heavens of Venus and it has scientists really excited. Researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) and the Japanese space agency JAXA have now spotted a giant planetary-scale wave not yet seen elsewhere in the Solar System that has been around for at least 35 years. 


“If this happened on Earth, this would be a frontal surface at the scale of the planet, and that’s incredible,” said Pedro Machado in a statement.

“Under the follow-up campaign, we went back to images I took in the infrared in 2012 with the Galileo National Telescope (TNG), in the Canary Islands, and we found precisely the same disruption.”

This newly-discovered wave can sometimes extend as far as 4660 miles (7500 kilometres), across the equator, from 30º north to 40º south. It occurs at the lower cloud levels and since at least 1983 it has periodically been swiping Venus in five days, at about 204 miles per hour (328 kph).

The discovery was made by the Venus orbiter Akatsuki of JAXA who took infrared images from the nightside of the planet. The orbiter was able to examine the mid and lower layers of the atmosphere finally spotting the massive wave that was in hiding for nearly 35 years.

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According to IA, the new cloud marks the "first serious candidate to planetary wave found at low altitudes."  This is not the first giant cloud pattern to be observed on Venus.

Previously scientists had discovered the Y wave or the 6213 miles (10,000 km) long bow-shaped stationary wave on the upper clouds. This new wave, however, is the first to be discovered at such low altitudes.

To add to its mystery, the mechanisms that ignite and maintain the wave remain still unknown despite researchers conducting computer simulations that attempt to mimic their activity.

Indeed, this wave is an entirely new meteorological phenomenon, never before seen on other planets. Future research will now focus on trying to understand the new atmospheric disruption and we can't help but be excited to find out more.

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