Japanese Orbiter Captures Strange Atmospheric Phenomenon in Venus, Find Out What It Is

Jan 17, 2017 09:39 AM EST

The Japanese spacecraft, Akatsuki orbiter captured a strange atmospheric phenomenon in Venus that appears to be a giant ripple across the surface of the planet.

The discovery, described in a paper published in the journal Nature Geosciences, can be considered as the biggest giant wave to be observed in the solar system. Researchers proposed that the strange ripple in the surface of Venus is likely to be a gravity wave in the planet's upper cloud layer.

As oppose to gravitational waves, gravity waves are more common and can be witnessed by the naked eye. Gravity waves are formed when liquid, gas or plasma is displaced from equilibrium. In the case of the gravity wave that was detected in Venus, the researchers hypothesized that the fast moving atmosphere of Venus, which rotates faster than the planet itself, was disturbed by the surface topography of the planet. These disturbances force gravity to overshoot, creating a large-scale gravity wave.

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"If you have a stream and it's flowing over a rock, you get the gravity waves propagating upwards through the water," explained Dr Colin Wilson, a planetary scientist from the University of Oxford and was not included in the current study, in a report from BBC. At the surface of the stream, you will see it as changes in height."

The giant wave measures about 6,214 miles across the planet's surface. The researchers observed that the wave was stationary and fixed over the mountainous region of Aphrodite Terra. The wave effect was most likely to be created when the lower atmosphere passes over mountains, propagating upwards through the planet's thick atmosphere.

The current study was led by Makoto Taguchi of Tokyo's Rikkyo University and Atsushi Yamazaki from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Taguchi, Yamazaki and the rest of the research team plans to observe Venus in the coming years as the Akatsuki continue to orbit the planet as part of its mission.

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