Never seen like this: Venus in the photos of Akatsuki


The Japanese probe Akatsuki, in orbit around Venus since December 2015, does not talk about itself as some Martian orbiter, but in silence it is ensuring an excellent work of observation. The five cameras it is equipped with allow you to explore the planet in visible light, infrared and ultraviolet light, and have returned these spectacular photos to us in recent weeks.

Image Venus has a complex meteorological system as the terrestrial one. | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic

The images have been reprocessed by Damia Bouic, photographer and blogger of The Planetary Society, and show the complex and dynamic meteorological system in the Venusian atmosphere.

Image Details of the equatorial, tropical and extra-tropical clouds of the planet. Red tones indicate a large amount of sulfur dioxide. | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic

They are in false colors - that is, the shades have been accentuated or changed in some cases, to bring out particular characteristics - but at the same time rather faithful to the originals (which you can see in the "raw" state, here).

Image A band of cirrus clouds above the south pole of Venus, perhaps fed by a jet stream. | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic

Some images show the night glow of the planet in the infrared wavelength, other twists and whirls woven by clouds in the planet's toxic atmosphere. As can be seen, the polar regions seem less turbulent than the tropical ones.

Image This image seems to show in great detail what is perhaps a stormy front (the dark and "serrated" area). | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic

The Akatsuki probe was the protagonist of a space odyssey, before it could reach the goal. Launched on March 20, 2010, in December of the same year it failed to catch Venus's orbit (its braking engines did not stay on long enough). But she tried again successfully five years later, after a long journey that took her up to 80 million km from the Sun.

Image These infrared images are intended as "negatives". The heat emanates from the deeper layers of the atmosphere and is blocked by a thick layer of clouds. The "clearest" areas are also the least thick and the hottest. | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic

And fortunately: if we exclude the mission of ESA Venus Express, of 2006, and the Magellan probe of NASA (but it was 1990), in the last few years the nearby planet has been a little neglected, by space exploration missions. The Akatsuki is catching up by studying - among other phenomena - the gravity waves of the planet, its volcanism, winds, lightning and cloud formations.

Image The nocturnal side of Venus in thermal infrared. What is seen is therefore the nightly heat of the planet. | JAXA / ISAS / DARTS / Damia Bouic