At the cloud top level of Venus (65–70 km altitude) the atmosphere rotates 60 times faster than the underlying surface—a phenomenon known as superrotation1,2. Whereas on Venus’s dayside the cloud top motions are well determined3,4,5,6 and Venus general circulation models predict the mean zonal flow at the upper clouds to be similar on both the day and nightside2, the nightside circulation remains poorly studied except for the polar region7,8. Here, we report global measurements of the nightside circulation at the upper cloud level. We tracked individual features in thermal emission images at 3.8 and 5.0 μm obtained between 2006 and 2008 by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer-Mapper onboard Venus Express and in 2015 by ground-based measurements with the Medium-Resolution 0.8–5.5 Micron Spectrograph and Imager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Infrared Telescope Facility. The zonal motions range from −110 to −60 m s–1, which is consistent with those found for the dayside but with larger dispersion6. Slow motions (−50 to −20 m s–1) were also found and remain unexplained. In addition, abundant stationary wave patterns with zonal speeds from −10 to +10 m s–1 dominate the night upper clouds and concentrate over the regions of higher surface elevation.
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J.P. acknowledges the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s International Top Young Fellowship. R.H. and A.S.-L. were supported by the project AYA2015-65041-P from the European Union’s Fondo Europeo para el Desarrollo Regional, granted by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, and Grupos Gobierno Vasco (IT-765-13). T.M.S. was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows. The IRTF/SpeX observations were supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI 15K17767). T.K., T.M.S. and H.S. were visiting astronomers at the IRTF, which is operated by the University of Hawaii under contract NNH14CK55B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and acknowledge M. S. Connelley (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) for support in the observations. We also thank the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana and the Centre National d’Études Spatiales for supporting the VIRTIS–VEx experiment.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Supplementary Figures 1–7 and Supplementary Tables 1–2. (PDF 1017 kb)
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Peralta, J., Hueso, R., Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. Stationary waves and slowly moving features in the night upper clouds of Venus. Nat Astron 1, 0187 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-017-0187
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