Why hello, Venus.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a well-armored spacecraft that’s observing the sun closer than any mission before, swung by Venus in July 2020 and snapped some opportunistic images. On Wednesday, the space agency released a particularly vivid image from this near pass.
“#ParkerSolarProbe captured this stunning view of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020,” NASA tweeted.
There are some cool things to see in this shot, which was taken by the probe’s only imager, the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe. (It’s designed to take images of the sun’s atmosphere and ejections from the sun, but can capture objects like Venus, too.)
The dark area on Venus is a massive highlands region called Aphrodite Terra, which extends two-thirds of the way around the planet. It’s seen as darker because it’s higher in elevation and cooler than the surrounding terrain.
The light rim around the planet could be a phenomenon called “nightglow,” as some interacting atmospheric particles emit light during the night.
The streaks could be caused by a few different things, like sunlight reflecting off of space dust, or even specks from the spacecraft after impacts with space dust.
Plenty of stars in the deep cosmos are visible behind Venus.
To pass through the sun’s outer atmosphere, the Parker Solar Probe swings close by Venus, using the planet’s gravity to “bend” its orbit closer to the sun. This particular flyby brought the probe some 7,693 miles from Venus, a planet shrouded in thick clouds.
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