Venus is a mystery. It's the world next door, so it doesn't say anything about itself. A thick canopy of clouds envelops a barren landscape pelted with acid rain and baked at temperatures capable of melting lead.
A Secretive Next-Door Neighbor
There's a lot we don't know about Venus, including the fact that it has a lot in common with us and happens to be our nearest neighbor. And that isn't for lack of attempting. The conditions and pace of Venus have made nailing down details an extremely time-consuming task, so scientists turned to the dance floor for inspiration.
A team from University of California, Los Angeles used radar to determine the exact length of a day on Venus, the size of its nucleus, and its specific tilt angle in a report published in Nature Astronomy on Thursday. "We use Venus as a giant disco ball," said the study's lead author, UCLA professor Jean-Luc Margot.
In a paper released in Nature Astronomy on Thursday, a team from UCLA used radar to calculate the exact length of a day on Venus, the size of its nucleus, and its precise tilt angle.
The planet Venus's fundamental characteristics, such as its internal mass distribution and changes in day length, have remained unclear.
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Using Earth and Venus' Similarities
To achieve precise results, the experiment required precise timing. To get an accurate representation, both Venus and Earth had to be located right.
Both the Earth and Venus are rocky planets of almost identical sizes, masses, and densities. Despite this, they developed in very different ways. The number of hours in a Venusian day, for example, is crucial information for considering the divergent histories of these two universes.
The team measured the spin axis inclination, spin precession rate, moment of inertia, and length-of-day variations of Venus using Earth-based measurements of radar speckles bound to its rotation from 2006 to 2020.
The findings reveal that Venus is significantly tilted to one side by 2.6392 degrees, gradually shifting direction over 29,000 years. In comparison, the Earth tilts at 23 degrees and changes its inclination in just 26,000 years.
Furthermore, the findings show that a typical day on Venus lasts approximately 243.0226 Earth days, or about two-thirds of an Earth year, with a rotation rate that varies by 20 minutes on each given day.
The team then measured Venus's size for the first time, estimating it to be about 3,500 kilometers (roughly 2174.799 miles) in diameter.
Changes in Venus' rotation and inclination demonstrate how the planet's mass is distributed within. The planet's internal composition, in particular, drives an understanding of the planet's origin, volcanic past, and how time has changed the surface. Furthermore, without accurate details on how the Earth travels, any possible landing attempts may be 30 kilometers off the mark.
More To Learn
However, there is so much more to learn about Venus; for example, we don't know if the center is solid or liquid, so the team will continue to investigate the disco ball to learn more.
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