Breaking: NASA Just Released First-Ever Images Of Venus' Surface Taken With Visible Light

The first images of Venus's surface captured in visible light come from the Parker Solar Probe.

The planet's surface is often obscured by thick clouds, but the probe's Wide-Field Imager (WISPR) recently captured images of Venus's nightside at wavelengths visible to the human eye.

Lead author Brian Wood, a physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, said of the new study: "Though Venus is the third brightest object in the sky, its thick atmosphere has obscured our view of its surface until recently, leaving us with little information about its appearance. For the first time, we can now see the surface in visible wavelengths from space."

When the Parker Solar Probe made its third flyby of Venus in July 2020 in an effort to tilt its orbit closer to the Sun, it took the first of these pictures. With the ability to discern minute details in the solar atmosphere, scientists chose to study Venus's clouds instead, and they were astonished to find the planet's entire nightside as well.

The Parker Solar Probe took images of the night side of Venus, revealing surface features in dark and light markings. Image via NASA.

Since WISPR also detects some infrared wavelengths that the planet produces due to its extremely hot surface—roughly 860 degrees Fahrenheit even at night—the camera was able to photograph a faint glow coming from the planet.

The Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters' division director, Nicola Fox, stated: "We're happy with the science insights Parker Solar Probe has offered thus far. Parker keeps exceeding our expectations, and we are thrilled that Venus research may benefit from these fresh insights obtained during our gravity assist maneuver in unanticipated ways."

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