Nature 450, 633-636 (29 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06320; Received 8 May 2007; Accepted 20 September 2007

Morphology and dynamics of the upper cloud layer of Venus

W. J. Markiewicz1, D. V. Titov1,2, S. S. Limaye3, H. U. Keller1, N. Ignatiev2, R. Jaumann4, N. Thomas5, H. Michalik6, R. Moissl1 & P. Russo1

  1. Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, D-37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
  2. Space Research Institute (IKI), 117997 Moscow, Russia
  3. Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA
  4. Institut für Planetenforschung, DLR, 12489 Berlin, Germany
  5. Physikalisches Institut, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
  6. IDA, TU Braunschweig, D-38106 Braunschweig, Germany

Correspondence to: W. J. Markiewicz1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to W.J.M. (Email: markiewicz@mps.mpg.de).

Venus is completely covered by a thick cloud layer, of which the upper part is composed of sulphuric acid and some unknown aerosols1. The cloud tops are in fast retrograde rotation (super-rotation), but the factors responsible for this super-rotation are unknown2. Here we report observations of Venus with the Venus Monitoring Camera3 on board the Venus Express spacecraft. We investigate both global and small-scale properties of the clouds, their temporal and latitudinal variations, and derive wind velocities. The southern polar region is highly variable and can change dramatically on timescales as short as one day, perhaps arising from the injection of SO2 into the mesosphere. The convective cells in the vicinity of the subsolar point are much smaller than previously inferred4, 5, 6, which we interpret as indicating that they are confined to the upper cloud layer, contrary to previous conclusions7, 8, but consistent with more recent study9.


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