Inner planets Venus and Mercury can never wander far from the Sun in Earth's sky. This week you've probably seen them both gathered near the western horizon just after sunset, a close conjunction of bright celestial beacons in the fading twilight. The pair are framed in this early evening skyview captured on January 13 from the ruins of Szarvasko Castle in northwestern Hungary.
Behold the glory that is the first rainbow image obtained from Venus. This rainbow is a type of glory, formed by light passing through cloud droplets. Glories are formed when light bounces off spherical cloud particles in the same direction from which it came, creating a ring of light only visible if you (or a spacecraft) are directly between the center of the glory and the sun. That's what happened here--the image below was captured by the European Space Agency's Venus Express...
"A full glory has never been seen before outside of the terrestrial environment," Wojciech Markiewicz, at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research...
NASA's focus for human spaceflight seems to change every few years as we learn something new about what it will take to keep human beings alive out there. However, NASA usually picks one of a few targets. Will we go to Mars next, maybe back to the Moon, or perhaps an asteroid is a better option? NASA's Langley Research Center has put forward an interesting proposal — instead of the traditional choices, why not make the trip to Venus?
Sure, a human would be almost instantly annihilated on Venus' hellish surface, but not if they're floating among the clouds in a solar powered airship. This mission calls for a 129-meter airship, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), which has a small habitat suspended below and solar panels for power.
When Venus Express started operations in 2006, high-altitude winds between latitudes 50 degrees either side of the equator were recorded at about 300 kilometres (187 miles) per hour on average, they found.
These winds have progressively increased and now are running at almost 400 kph (250 mph).