The planet Venus is covered by thick clouds of sulfuric acid that move westwards because the entire upper atmosphere rotates much faster than the planet itself. At the cloud tops, about 65 km in altitude, small-scale features are predominantly carried by the background wind at speeds of approximately 100 m s−1. In contrast, planetary-scale atmospheric features have been observed to move slightly faster or slower than the background wind, a phenomenon that has been interpreted to reflect the propagation of planetary-scale waves. Here we report the detection of an interhemispheric bow-shaped structure stretching 10,000 km across at the cloud-top level of Venus in middle infrared and ultraviolet images from the Japanese orbiter Akatsuki. Over several days of observation, the bow-shaped structure remained relatively fixed in position above the highland on the slowly rotating surface, despite the background atmospheric super rotation. We suggest that the bow-shaped structure is the result of an atmospheric gravity wave generated in the lower atmosphere by mountain topography that then propagated upwards. Numerical simulations provide preliminary support for this interpretation, but the formation and propagation of a mountain gravity wave remain difficult to reconcile with assumed near-surface conditions on Venus. We suggest that winds in the deep atmosphere may be spatially or temporally more variable than previously thought.

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We would like to acknowledge all the members of the Akatsuki project team for their efforts in the Akatsuki operation, which led to the successful VOI. This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP15K17767 and JP16H02231.

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  1. College of Science, Rikkyo University, 3-34-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-8501, Japan

    • Tetsuya Fukuhara
    •  & Makoto Taguchi
  2. Omori Medical Center, Toho University, 6-11-1 Omorinishi, Ota-ku, Tokyo 143-8541, Japan

    • Masahiko Futaguchi
  3. Department of Earth Sciences, Okayama University, 3-1-1 Tsushimanaka, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8530, Japan

    • George L. Hashimoto
  4. Faculty of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, N10W5, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan

    • Takeshi Horinouchi
    •  & Mitsuteru Sato
  5. Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8561, Japan

    • Takeshi Imamura
  6. School of Commerce, Senshu University, 2-1-1 Higashimita, Tama-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 214-8580, Japan

    • Naomoto Iwagaimi
  7. Artificial Intelligence Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, 2-3-26 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

    • Toru Kouyama
  8. Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, Chuo-ku, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-5210, Japan

    • Shin-ya Murakami
    • , Masato Nakamura
    • , Takao M. Sato
    • , Makoto Suzuki
    •  & Atsushi Yamazaki
  9. School of Engineering, University of Shiga Prefecture, 2500 Hassaka, Hikone, Shiga 522-8533, Japan

    • Kazunori Ogohara
  10. Research and Information Center, Tokai University, 4-1-1 Kitakaname, Hiratsuka, Kanagawa 259-1292, Japan

    • Seiko Takagi
  11. Graduate School of Science, Kobe University, 7-1-48 Minatojima Minamimachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047, Japan

    • Munetaka Ueno
  12. Space Information Center, Hokkaido Information University, Ebetsu, Hokkaido 069-8585, Japan

    • Shigeto Watanabe
  13. Planetary Exploration Research Center, Chiba Institute of Technology, 2-17-1 Tsudanuma, Narashino, Chiba 275-0016, Japan

    • Manabu Yamada


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M.T. and S.W. are the principal investigators of LIR and UVI, respectively. T.F., M.F., G.L.H., T.I., N.I., T.K., M.N., M.S., T.M.S., M.S., S.T. and M.U. are co-investigators of LIR. M.Y. and A.Y. are co-investigators of UVI. T.H., S.-y.M. and K.O. contributed to the derivation of the wind field. T.I. contributed to the numerical modelling.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Makoto Taguchi.

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