This summer, the European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft plunged into the upper atmosphere of our neighboring planet during a perilous, but at the same time successful aero braking, designed to collect information about the sky of Venus.
Currently, his data are analyzed by scientists. Based on this data, they assumed that Venus Express had been subjected to much more impact than expected. Flying at low altitude (the maximum approximation to the surface was about 80 miles (129 kilometers)), Venus Express found that the temperature on the surface of its solar panels rose 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) and reached 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius)! In addition, at an altitude of 80 to 102 miles (130-165 km), the atmosphere of Venus becomes a thousand times denser, which adds additional load to low-flying spacecraft.
“We expected the density profile to be smoother,” said Håkan Svedhem, Venus Express’s scientific supervisor for the project. "We have seen a large variation, sometimes with a sharp rise, a flat top and a sharp decline, sometimes with several peaks." It is possible that the rough surface features on Venus are the cause of such atmospheric disturbances. “One possible explanation is that we have discovered waves in the atmosphere,” Svedham continued. "These formations could have been caused when strong winds moved across mountain ranges. However, such waves had never been detected at such heights before."
Watch the video about plunging Venus Express into the atmosphere of the planet:
In addition, when the Venus Express unit moved from the day side of the planet to the night side, the density of the atmosphere changed dramatically. On the sunny slopes, it was four times denser.
Venus has an extremely low rotational speed around its own axis. A day on Venus lasts for 2900 hours, which is equal to 243 Earth days. This is enough time for the heat of the sun to form interesting effects in its dense atmosphere.
Towards its end of life, the Venus Express has almost completely exhausted its fuel resources, and its orbit, despite a brief rise in summer, continues to fall down to the planet. At the end of November, another attempt will be made to increase the height, but the apparatus will inevitably fall back down. Nevertheless, scientists hope to collect more data about the planet during the final immersion into the atmosphere of the planet.