A NASA spacecraft flew from Venus last summer and detected a natural radio signal from Earth’s twin. This signal reveals that the probe actually passed through the upper atmosphere of Venus, collecting the first direct measurement of it in almost 30 years.
The solar mission, which starts in 2018, aims to explore the sun and unravel some of its mysteries. The probe will travel through the solar atmosphere for seven years and will be closer to the surface of our star than any spacecraft before it.
Venus contributes to the success of the probe. The spacecraft uses Venus̵
During one of these flies on Venus on July 11, 2020, the probe gathered evidence that the upper atmosphere of Venus is undergoing some unusual changes that are affected by the solar cycle or the 11-year cycle of our sun.
The spacecraft also clicked an amazing image that shows an unexpected side of our planetary neighbor. This was Venus’s third gravity assistant for the Parker solar probe. During the flight, the probe is located 833 kilometers from the planet’s surface.
The information Parker has gathered so far about Venus helps scientists understand why it is so different from Earth, even though the planets are often called twins.
Both planets are rocky and similar in size, but something happened to make Earth and Venus evolve differently. Unlike Earth, Venus has no magnetic field. Its inhospitable surface has flaming temperatures that can melt lead.
Attempts to explore Venus with the help of spaceships are complicated because they can only survive for a few hours if they try to descend to the surface. Previous missions to explore Venus include NASA’s Pioneer Venus Orbiter from 1978 to 1992 and the European Space Agency’s Venus Express from 2005 to 2014, both orbiting the planet.
But understanding why Venus came into being this way can help scientists determine why some Earth-like planets look habitable while others don’t.
During Venus’s third flight, Parker Solar Probe’s FIELDS instrument, which measures electric and magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere, detected a natural low-frequency radio signal. This appeared as a “frown” in the FIELDS data.
“I was so excited to receive new data from Venus,” said Glyn Collinson, lead author of the study and a research fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. “To see Venus now, it’s all about those little looks.”
Collinson, an expert from Venus who has studied data from previous missions on the planet, believes that the signal seems familiar. He previously worked on the Galileo orbit, which studied Jupiter and its moons from 1995 to 2003.
The same kind of frown will appear in Galileo’s data when the spacecraft passes through the ionospheres of Jupiter’s moons, Collinson noted.
Earth and Venus have an ionosphere or an electrically charged layer of gas at the upper edge of the atmosphere. This plasma emits natural radio waves that can be captured by instruments such as Parker’s FIERDS.
Collinson and colleagues realized that the spacecraft cleared the upper atmosphere of Venus during the July 2020 flyby. The radio signal received by FIELDS helped researchers calculate the density of the Venus ionosphere. The last time the research team had access to this type of data was when it was collected by Pioneer Venus Orbiter in 1992.
At that time, the sun was approaching the solar maximum or peak of activity during the solar cycle.
During the July flight nearly 30 years later, ionosphere data were collected six months after the Sun’s solar minimum.
The comparison revealed something scientists have long suspected: the ionosphere of Venus changes in response to solar activity throughout its solar cycle.
Researchers have found that the Venus ionosphere is much thinner during the solar minimum than during the solar maximum.
“When multiple missions confirm the same result, one after the other, it gives you a lot of confidence that the thinning is real,” said study co-author Robin Ramstad, a doctoral student in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in a statement. .
Understanding the ways in which Venus responds to the changes experienced by the sun can help scientists understand how the planet is evolving. The Venetian ionosphere releases energy gas into space, suggesting that its atmosphere has changed over time.
“The purpose of the flight from Venus is to slow down the spacecraft so that the Parker solar probe can dive closer to the Sun,” said Nur E. Rawafi, a scientist in the Parker solar probe project, in a statement. in Applied Physics, Jones Hopkins. “But we would not miss the opportunity to gather scientific data and provide unique insights into a mysterious planet like Venus.”