Astronomy Picture of the Day

Swirling Clouds Over the South Pole of Venus

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Swirling Clouds Over the South Pole of Venus

What's happening over the South Pole of Venus?

To find out, scientists sent the
robot Venus Express spacecraft now orbiting
directly over the lower spin axis of Earth's overheated twin.

Venus Express
confirmed there a spectacular massive swirling storm system with
similarities to the
vortex recently imaged over Saturn's South Pole.

The above composite image in
infrared light features Venus' daytime side on the left,
shining primarily by reflected sunlight, and nighttime side on the right,
shining primarily by
thermal light.

A Venusian polar vortex is visible as
the small circular feature near the center of the thermal infrared image pictured on the right.

Close inspection of
other South Pole images unexpectedly showed a second vortex,
meaning that the unusual swirling clouds are like an
Earth-hurricane that has two eyes.

Why a double vortex has formed is now a topic of

The above image was taken last year, and
more recent images from Venus Express
are being processed that have as much as 100 times more detail.

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