News of the WeekPlanetary Science

Mission to Probe Venus's Curious Winds And Test Solar Sail for Propulsion

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Science  07 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5979, pp. 677
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5979.677-a

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Summary

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akatsuki mission, slated for launch on 18 May, will train four cameras at ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths on Venus to track clouds at different altitudes. The craft also has a high-speed camera that aims to capture venusian lightning, presumed to occur but never directly observed. Akatsuki, to be placed in an equatorial orbit, will complement the European Space Agency's Venus Express, which has been in a polar orbit around the planet since 2006. The two teams are planning coordinated observations using different instruments. Members of the Venus Express science team expect the findings to provide clues to understanding the evolution of Earth's atmosphere and the effects of greenhouse gases.