Last summer I mentioned significant achievement unlocked by Japanese space agency (JAXA). They had managed to propel Akatsuki space probe into Venus orbit after its main engine shutdown in 2010 — and more or less save the day five years later.
Akatsuki’s speed and other orbital parameters nonetheless differ greatly from what it would have got had the earlier 2010 maneuver worked as planned. Thus, Akatsuki sends back to Earth not as many pretty high-definition space photographs as we would have hoped looking at New Horizons, Martian orbital space probes or Hubble space telescope.
While close to Earth, Venus remains poorly investigated, so Japanese probe, even on its current orbit, will give us no small information about that planet. Its mission turns out especially valuable after brusque rejection of a Venus mission by NASA, focusing instead on Psyche project. This latter decision seems taciturn when considering that none American spacecraft has ever reached the surface of Venus, while Magellan from 1994 still holds the beer as the last US-made scientific Venusian orbital probe. Second planet from the Sun looks like a no-go hostile place to Americans, like Mars to European and Russian rivals.
We’re lucky that NASA’s not alone in space. Private contractors like SpaceX and space agencies across the ponds, esp. CNSA, are expected to regain positions lost by slowly but evenly deteriorating American governmental space industry. Suffice to say that even if NASA hits the jackpot in their SLS program and kicks humans off Earth to the next frontier, every launch of that ultra-heavy disposable rocket will cost as high as 2 bln USD to American tax-payers. Read The Cassandra Project by McDevitt and Resnick for moar conspiracy theories, if you want to take the high road.
But enough of them. In the latest issue of Natural Geoscience, Japanese scientists reveal some conclusions based on the slew of Akatsuki’s data from December 2015, when the spacecraft had just arrived at the Venus orbit. Of biggest interest in this paper is enormous cloud bow-shaped structure spotted in the upper layers of Venusian atmosphere, stretching over 10,000 km from end to end. Just behold.
The monstrous cloud arc appears almost stationary relative to other atmospheric layers, probably forming breather-type soliton, i.e., gravity wave formed in the lower atmosphere as it flows over the mountains. Solitons and rogue waves (so-called killer waves) are well-known in the seas and oceans of Earth, hence Akatsuki observation might turn out useful for Venus colonization projects based on floating cloud cities.