Despite its proximity, Venus remains largely mysterious, thanks to its cloudy atmosphere and incredible harsh conditions. A recent study using data from the Japanese satellite Akatsuki revealed an enormous bow-shaped wave in the Venusian atmosphere. The wave appeared at an altitude of about 65 km and stretched more than 10,000 km long, across both the northern and southern hemispheres. Although surface winds on Venus are believed to be small due to its incredibly slow rotation, winds higher in the atmosphere are much faster – so it was strange to observe this wave sitting essentially stationary for five days of observation.
When the scientists mapped the location of wave relative to the surface, they found it was sitting over the Aphrodite Terra highlands, suggesting that this structure is a gravity wave generated by winds interacting with the topography. Similar, albeit smaller, gravity waves are often observed on Earth near mountains. The finding raises questions about our understanding of Venusian atmospheric dynamics and exactly how disturbances from surface winds could create enormous structures so high in the atmosphere. (Image credit: T. Fukuhara et al.; h/t to SciShow Space)