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New Ideas for an Old Problem: Observations and Science 1980–2020

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Part of the Astronomers' Universe book series (ASTRONOM)

Abstract

The 1970s were an extraordinarily productive time for Venus research, with space missions making the first direct measurements in its atmosphere and on its surface. The Soviet Union was spectacularly successful, landing a series of spacecraft that sent home the first up-close views of our neighboring world. Venera 7 became the first spacecraft to successfully soft-land on another planet and transmit a signal back to Earth; it made in situ environmental measurements of a broiling, 475C surface with a pressure ninety times that at sea level on Earth. The follow-up Venera 8 mission proved that the lower atmosphere of Venus was relatively clear and that its surface rocks were compositionally similar to the basaltic rocks of our own planet. In October 1975, Venera 9 radioed back to Earth the first photographs taken at the surface of Venus, revealing an expanse of plate-like rocks showing no evidence of erosion. Later in the decade, the Americans flew both spacecraft in the Pioneer Venus series, one of which continued relaying data back to Earth for almost 15 years. These missions yielded new insights into the composition and structure of the Venus atmosphere, as well as providing the first global map of the planet’s surface, gleaned from radar measurements.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Phillips, J., Stewart, A., & Luhmann, J. 1986. The Venus ultraviolet aurora: Observations at 130.4 nm. Geophysical Research Letters, 13(10), 1047–1050.

  2. 2.

    1988, The Ashen Light of Venus, Sky and Telescope, 75, 250.

  3. 3.

    1997, Advanced Amateur Astronomy (2nd ed.), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 189.

  4. 4.

    Quoted in “Cassini Scientists See No Sign Of Lightning On Venus”, NASA press release #2001–013, January 19, 2001.

  5. 5.

    1967, Science, 156(3783), 1729–1730.

  6. 6.

    Esposito, L. 1984. Science, 223(4640), 1072–1074. Esposito concluded from the available data that “the explanation of this phenomenon was a single injection of SO2 into the Venus middle atmosphere prior to the Pioneer Venus encounter in 1978. … A natural physical mechanism for this injection is major volcanic activity on the surface.”

  7. 7.

    2015, Geophysical Research Letters, 42(12), 4762–4769.

  8. 8.

    Gülcher, A., Gerya, T., Montési, L., Munch, J. 2020. Corona structures driven by plume–lithosphere interactions and evidence for ongoing plume activity on Venus. Nature Geoscience, 13(8), 547–554.

  9. 9.

    Naturalis Historia, 2.33. Gaius Caecilius Metellus Caprarius and Gnaeus Papirius Carbo were Roman consuls in the year 113 BCE.

  10. 10.

    Posthumously nicknamed the “Airglow Rayleigh” to distinguish him from his father, John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (1842–1919), known as the “Scattering Rayleigh” for his work on the scattering of light by small particles.

  11. 11.

    1931, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical and Physical Character, 131(817), 376–381.

  12. 12.

    Geophysical Research Letters, 44(13), 7036–7043.

  13. 13.

    Covey, C., & Schubert, G. 1982. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 39(11), 2397–2413.

  14. 14.

    Peralta, J., et al. 2015. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(3), 705–711.

  15. 15.

    Journal of the Optical Society of America, 36(11), 624–643.

  16. 16.

    In this context, ‘achromatic’ means that the targets are not very strongly colored and are therefore treated as though they were essentially white. The colors of such objects are perceived to have zero saturation and therefore no hue.

References

  1. Russell, C. T., & Scarf, F. L. (1990). Evidence for lightning on Venus. Advances in Space Research, 10, 125–136.

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Barentine, J.C. (2021). New Ideas for an Old Problem: Observations and Science 1980–2020. In: Mystery of the Ashen Light of Venus. Astronomers' Universe. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72715-4_7

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