In Venus’ atmosphere, flashes may not be lightning but meteors.

It’s possible that probes that will spend time in the planet’s clouds won’t require lightning protection.
Occasionally, flashes illuminate Venus’ cloud cover. ng to earlier investigahe light flashes may have been caused by lightning in the atmosphere of the hellish realm, accorditions. However, a recent analysis indicates that the majority of the lights might simply be meteors, which produce brief yet intense blazes.

Scientists are keen to determine the source of the light because they have impending expeditions scheduled for Venus (SN: 6/2/21). According to Claire Blaske, a planetary scientist now working at Stanford University, if the flashes are caused by lightning, the electrical phenomenon could endanger future probes that drop into Venus’ atmosphere or are carried by balloons for a long time inside the planet’s clouds. tiny meteors that burn up in the atmosphere, wouldn’t pose much of a danger.

According to Blaske, previous Venusian landers have frequently found electromagnetic static that is akin to the kind heard on AM radio and produced by lightning during thunderstorms on Earth. Additionally, orbiters and telescopes on Earth have detected fleeting, dazzling flashes in the atmosphere. However, according to Blaske, both the static and optical flashes have never been picked up at the same time. Furthermore, considering how little is known about the dynamics of Venus’ atmosphere, according to Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis who did not participate in the study, “it’s not clear there is the potential for lightning on Venus.”

At the time, Blaske and her colleagues at Arizona State University in Tempe questioned whether meteors could be mistaken for lightning on Venus. The light bursts were counted by two surveys: one using a telescope on Arizona’s Mount Bigelow and the other using equipment on Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft (SN: 12/8/15).

According to that information, the number of these flashes per year is most likely between 10,000 and 100,000, the researchers write in the September issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

That may look like a lot of flashes for meteors to be the only cause of. Venus is after all a marginally smaller cosmic target than Earth. But because they are moving more quickly on average, meteors there will be noticeably brighter and more visible: Compared to meteoroids entering Earth’s atmosphere, which travel at a speed of 20.3 km/s, space rocks traverse Venus’ atmosphere at roughly 25 km/s. That’s in part because Venus orbits the sun more quickly than Earth does.

Overall, Blaske and her coworkers came to the conclusion that meteors might be plentiful enough to account for the majority, if not all, of the flashes anticipated to occur in Venus’ atmosphere.

The team’s work “is compelling and does a nice job of providing a plausible explanation for these flashes,” according to Byrne. Future observations that measure the flashes and electromagnetic static on Venus at the same time could be able to solve the puzzle. However, there are still many important issues to be resolved. For instance, it’s unknown whether Venus’ carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere occasionally experiences lightning or another type of electrical discharge that doesn’t produce light flashes but might still endanger missions.

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