Some of the final results sent back by ESA’s Venus Express before it plummeted down through the planet’s atmosphere have revealed it to be rippling with atmospheric waves – and, at an average temperature of -157°C, colder than anywhere on Earth.
As well as telling us much about Venus’ previously-unexplored polar regions and improving our knowledge of our planetary neighbour, the experiment holds great promise for ESA’s ExoMars mission, which is currently winging its way to the Red Planet. The findings were published in the journal Nature Physics on 11 April 2016.
ESA’s Venus Express arrived at Venus in 2006. It spent eight years exploring the planet from orbit, vastly outliving the mission’s planned duration of 500 days, before running out of fuel. The probe then began its descent, dipping further and further into Venus’ atmosphere, before the mission lost contact with Earth (November 2014) and officially ended (December 2014).