by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
The dense atmosphere shrouding Venus with toxic sulfuric yellow clouds has made the planet’s surface difficult, but not impossible to peer through. On its mission toward the Sun, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured a striking image of Venus that unexpectedly revealed features of the planet’s surface and atmosphere, reports Meghan Bartels for Space.com.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 to study the Sun’s atmosphere and will get closer than any other spacecraft has before to the celestial object, reports Ashley Strickland for CNN. Using Venus’s gravity, the Parker Probe will circle our host star seven times while getting closer and closer over the course of seven years. Aboard the probe is the Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe or WISPR. It is designed to take visible-light images of the Sun’s corona and solar wind using two optical telescopes, reports George Dvorsky for Gizmodo.
On July 11, 2020, during the Parker Probe’s third orbit around Venus, researchers used the WISPR instrument to image the planet. Expecting to see the Venusian surface blocked by clouds, the team was astonished to find that WISPR captured temperature differences on Venus’s surface.