A possible explanation for varying measurements of Venus's rotation rate

phys.org | 6/20/2018 | Staff
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A trio of researchers with the University of California and Sorbonne Universités has found a possible explanation for why Venus probes have found different day lengths for the planet. In their paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, T. Navarro, G. Schubert and S. Lebonnois describe a theory they have developed based on observational data.

Measurements of the rotation speed of Venus have varied over the years for unknown reasons. It is known that it takes 243 Earth days for the planet to spin just once, but exact measurements have varied by an average of seven minutes. Prior research has also shown that the atmosphere circulates around the planet much faster—getting all the way around in just four Earth days. In this new effort, the researchers suggest they might have found at least one of the characteristics causing the planet to spin at variable speeds, and it has to do with atmospheric circulation.

Researchers - Wave - Venus - Cloud - Formations—a

The researchers started with a long-standing wave that has been observed in Venus's cloud formations—a wave approximately 10,000 kilometers long. They noted that similar waves have been seen on Earth, due to air colliding with mountains, but those typically dissipate rapidly due to air currents. But the atmosphere on Venus is notably thicker than on Earth, an observation that intrigued the researchers. They created a simulation to recreate the cloud formations seen on Venus and introduced the idea of mountains on the surface as the cause. After adding in all known ingredients in Venus's atmosphere and accounting for the planet's size and density, they finished by adding mountains on the surface. They then ran the simulation.

The researchers report that the simulation did show a wave formed in the cloud tops, similar to that seen on the actual planet. But they also found...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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