Gigglebit: Vortex swirls at Venus’ south pole (photo)

21 Jan 2015

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The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer aboard ESA's Venus Express spacecraft captured swirling gas and cloud at Venus' south pole. Image via ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF/Obs. de Paris-LESIA/Univ. Oxford

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Gigglebit is Siliconrepublic’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note.

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Monday re-released an image of a mass of swirling gas and cloud at the south pole of planet Venus.

The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) aboard ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft captured the event on 7 April 2007.

The image is the result of the choppy and fast-moving atmosphere on Venus, where wind speeds can reach 400 km/h at the altitude of the cloud tops, about 70 km above the surface, the ESA said.

“At this altitude, Venus’ atmosphere spins round some 60 times faster than the planet itself. This is very rapid; even Earth’s fastest winds move at most about 30pc of our planet’s rotation speed. Quick-moving Venusian winds can complete a full lap of the planet in just four Earth days,” the ESA said.

The agency also explained that polar vortices form because heated air from equatorial latitudes rises and spirals towards the poles, carried by the fast winds.

“As the air converges on the pole and then sinks, it creates a vortex much like that found above the plughole of a bath.”

Here’s the image in its entirety:

Image via ESA/VIRTIS/INAF-IASF/Obs. de Paris-LESIA/Univ. Oxford

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Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com