Akatsuki, the Venus Local weather Orbiter

Main discoveries up to now

Akatsuki made its first discovery simply hours after it entered orbit round Venus in 2015, when it noticed an enormous curved function within the planet’s ambiance. This huge curve stretched almost all the way in which between the north and south poles, and regardless of the robust and quick winds, it remained nonetheless above an space referred to as Aphrodite Terra.

Later observations confirmed that such “sideways smiles”, as some described them, appeared repeatedly over a number of tall mountains on Venus, and caught round for a few month as soon as they popped up. Researchers concluded that they have been brought on by gravity waves, that are ripples in an environment brought on by air transferring over tough topography — to not be confused with gravitational waves, that are ripples in spacetime. This is able to later show to be simply the primary in a collection of unusual waves that Akatsuki noticed rippling by way of the Venusian ambiance, a lot of which uncovered extra mysteries than they solved. For instance, the gravity waves over mountains appeared solely to seem at excessive altitudes, not nearer to the bottom.

Akatsuki additionally noticed a jet stream blowing at excessive speeds round Venus’ equator within the decrease layers of clouds, which may clarify a number of the unusual shapes and vortices which were noticed there — though jet stream itself has not but been defined. The workforce has produced 3D maps of the ambiance, although, together with the temperature and stress of the air and a few of its constituent components and the way they alter over time.

After years of looking for lightning, the spacecraft lastly discovered a sign in March 2020. This single flash of sunshine on Venus’ darkish facet may have been both lightning or a meteorite burning up within the planet’s ambiance, however whether it is lightning it will be the primary time we’ve truly seen it on Venus.

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