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Venus’s Southern Polar Vortex Reveals Precessing Circulation

Science  29 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6029, pp. 577-580
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201629

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Abstract

Initial images of Venus’s south pole by the Venus Express mission have shown the presence of a bright, highly variable vortex, similar to that at the planet’s north pole. Using high-resolution infrared measurements of polar winds from the Venus Express Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instrument, we show the vortex to have a constantly varying internal structure, with a center of rotation displaced from the geographic south pole by ~3 degrees of latitude and that drifts around the pole with a period of 5 to 10 Earth days. This is indicative of a nonsymmetric and varying precession of the polar atmospheric circulation with respect to the planetary axis.

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