Investigation of the Coupled Dynamics and Chemistry of the Venus Lower Atmosphere (Southwest Research Institute)
Why does the atmosphere of Venus spin faster than the planet itself? To discover the answer, citizen scientists working alongside professional astronomers are clocking the Venusian winds. But they aren't using stopwatches. Instead, infrared images taken by a telescope in Hawaii allow the team to probe deep under the visible cloud tops and view the planet's global circulation in 3-D.
Understanding how Earth differs from its "sister planet" is crucial to eventually understanding how all Earth-like planets evolve over time.
By combining observations of Venus' atmosphere from ground-based telescopes as well as spacecraft, astronomers hope to construct a comprehensive picture of the planet's atmospheric composition and motions at altitudes never previously explored. In this project, ordinary citizens track extraordinary atmospheric motions, unlike anything seen on Earth. Venus, for instance, makes a complete rotation in 243 Earth days, but its atmosphere--traveling at speeds up to 150 miles per hour--rotates in only four Earth days. The scientists hope to better understand the similarities between Venus's atmosphere and Earth's, and the origin of the hotter world's atmospheric super-rotation.
This citizen science activity is one component of a larger project, led by researchers at the Southwest Research Institute and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
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