So much of space still remains a mystery to humans. But every now and then, we hear about a groundbreaking event or discovery that brings scientists a step further in their research of our mystic universe. One such event occurred recently, when NASA was able to capture an image that gives us a never-before-seen view of the hottest planet in our solar system.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe has given us the first glance at Venus' surface, revealing the sight of the planet's volcanic continents, plains, and plateaus. Since the planet is covered with a thick layer of clouds, much of its light is absorbed, preventing probes from being able to capture clear images of its surface. "Venus is the third brightest thing in the sky, but until recently, we have not had much information on what the surface looked like because our view of it is blocked by a thick atmosphere," explained Brian Wood, a physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. "Now, we finally are seeing the surface in visible wavelengths for the first time from space."
Although the Parker Solar Probe was originally designed to study the sun's atmosphere and solar wind, its sensitivity enabled it to capture the groundbreaking images of Venus on its way to the sun. "The pattern of bright and dark that you see is basically a temperature map," shared Wood. The images successfully showed the red glow radiating from the fiery planet - a glow usually overpowered by the sunlight that reflects off the clouds in its atmosphere. These images are significant, as they can enable scientists to study the planet's rocks and minerals and compare its geology with planet Earth's. This could lead to discoveries revealing how Venus' inhospitable environment came to be.
The unprecedented images were captured just as NASA prepares to launch two missions to Venus in less than a decade from now. Wood has shared that the images "may help in the interpretation of the observations taken in the future from these new missions." Although we have a few years to wait, we're already wondering what discoveries NASA's upcoming missions will bring to the world of science. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates!