The European Sun-observing spacecraft doubles as a Venus explorer, providing the most detailed measurements of the scorched planet’s magnetic field to date. Scientists said the data could help reveal how the solar wind changes the planet’s thick atmosphere over millions of years.
The second planet from the sunAnd the Venus He is constantly beaten by solar wind, the stream of charged particles emanating from our star. Very little is known about this interaction between Earth’s neighbor, known for its runaway greenhouse effect, and solar particles, said Lena Hadid, a space plasma physicist at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.
“Venus has been visited by many missions before, but none of these missions have actually been able to measure electric field data around Venus in detail,” Hadid told Space.com. “Also, not many of them were able to determine in detail the ionic composition of the magnetosphere of Venus. And so on [with the new Solar Orbiter measurements]For the first time we can study in detail magnetic field fluctuations and electric field fluctuations [around Venus]. “
solar orbita mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA), takes Closest pictures of the sun. The spacecraft makes regular flybys of Venus, using the planet gravity to tilt its orbit outside the plane of the ecliptic, where Solar Systemorbit of the planets. These maneuvers will enable the probe to finally see the sun’s poles, which play a key role in generating the sun’s magnetic field and thus in maintaining 11 year cycle of the sun From activity, tides sunspot The creation responsible space climate around the earth.
So far, Solar Orbiter has made three flights on Venus, which has impressed you Discoveries about the magnetism of Venus. Unlike Earth, Venus does not have an inherent magnetic field caused by the movement of molten metal in its core. However, the planet contains what scientists call an induced magnetic field, a weak magnetic shield caused by the interaction between the solar wind and the planet’s atmosphere.
During previous flights, the Solar Orbiter has found that this magnetic field extends at least 188,000 miles (300,000 km) into space and can accelerate particles from Atmosphere of Venus to staggering speeds of over 5 million miles per hour (8 million kilometers per hour). These supercharged particles can sometimes be stripped away by the solar wind, Hadid said, which over millions of years leads to changes in the chemical composition of Venus’s atmosphere.
“With these new observations, we can see the presence of carbon dioxide molecules outside the ionosphere of Venus,” Hadid said, referring to the outer layer of the planet’s atmosphere where thin gases interact with the Sun’s molecules. “This means that these heavy ions of carbon and oxygen can escape from the ionosphere and be pushed away by the solar wind.”
Earth’s atmosphere Shielded from the worst of the solar winds by our planet’s much stronger magnetic field. But another planet in the solar system is believed to have long ago lost its atmosphere after its magnetic field weakened: Mars. Could Venus, known today for its thick clouds of sulfur dioxide and very high concentrations of carbon dioxide that warm the planet to more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit (475 degrees Celsius), one day look completely different?
“If you notice that carbon is leaking out of the planet’s atmosphere, that can allow us to estimate how much carbon has been on the planet, for example, millions of years ago, and how the interaction with the solar wind led to the loss of these ions from the planet’s atmosphere,” Hadid said. Venus over very large periods of time.”
However, there is so much carbon dioxide in Venus’s atmosphere – the molecule makes up more than 96% of Venus’s air by volume – that the planet will become more life-friendly anytime soon.
Hadid added that by studying the interaction of Venus with the solar wind and comparing it with the interaction of planet Earth, planetary scientists can learn valuable lessons that they can use in the future in their search for habitable planets outside the solar system.
The Solar Orbiter still has five flights to Venus before its mission ends in the early 2030s, and that means more opportunities to study the intricacies of the solar wind’s interaction with the dense shroud of gas surrounding Venus. New missions by NASA and the European Space Agency and is expected to visit Venus later this decade, but Hadid said there are currently no plans for these missions to convey such precise particle analyzes as those on the solar orbiter. So perhaps the sun-observer is still making many more important discoveries about the planet, which shines in our night sky as the brightest “star”.