Ground-Based Near-Infrared Imaging Observations of Venus During the Galileo Encounter

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Science  27 Sep 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5027, pp. 1538-1541
DOI: 10.1126/science.253.5027.1538


Near-infrared images of Venus, obtained from a global network of ground-based observatories during January and February 1990, document the morphology and motions of the night-side near-infrared markings before, during, and after the Galileo Venus encounter. A dark cloud extended halfway around the planet at low latitudes (>±40°) and persisted throughout the observing program. It had a rotation period of 5.5 ± 0.15 days. The remainder of this latitude band was characterized by small-scale (400 to 1000 kilometers) dark and bright markings with rotation periods of 7.4 ± 1 days. The different rotation periods for the large dark cloud and the smaller markings suggests that they are produced at different altitudes. Mid-latitudes (±40° to 60°) were usually occupied by bright east-west bands. The highest observable latitudes (±60° to 70°) were always dark and featureless, indicating greater cloud opacity. Maps of the water vapor distribution show no evidence for large horizontal gradients in the lower atmosphere of Venus.