Newly-processed version of the old image of Venus from the 1974 Mariner 10 mission. The low number of images of Venus is surprising as well as our knowledge of the planet itself. Will the long-lasting mysteries like whether there is lightning on Venus be solved soon? Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mystery Flash Spotted On Venus Could Help Solve Long-Lasting Mystery

The truth is that we know too little about Venus.

Did you know that lightning exists on other planets in the Solar System and not only on our planet? On Earth, as well as on other cosmic bodies, lightning storms are formed when a particle is emitted from a region with predominantly positive charges to a region with a predominantly negative charge.

This often happens in water-rich clouds, as it has an uneven distribution of electric charges. Similar phenomena have been observed on several other planets in the solar system, such as Saturn and Jupiter. Then, what about lightning on Venus?

Lightning on Venus? Did scientists finally find a solution to this long-lasting mystery?

This is a question that scientists have been trying to answer for four decades, and right now they seem to be closer than ever. A mysterious lightning flash phenomenon, seen on March 1 this year, was announced at this year’s gathering of the American Geophysical Union.

It was captured by the only spacecraft in Venus’ orbit – the Japanese Akatsuki. Interestingly, Akatsuki’s instruments have been scanning Venus’ activity for five years, and this is only the first time a flash of light has been detected.

At this point, there are two main theories about the cause. Of course, one involves a powerful lightning bolt, which would answer the long-standing question of whether there is lightning on Venus. However, there is another theory that the detected light may be caused by a fallen meteor.

Unfortunately, experts cannot be sure of the exact reason. After decades of research and observations, this is only the first such case of a strong flash, which gives no guarantee that something like this can happen on the planet regularly. The best proof would be to detect such a flash again, but in the months after the first one, it did not happen again.

We don’t know much about the research done in recent months either, because the team of scientists has refused to give more information for the time being. We can only guess what exactly they learned until the official report is completed and published.

Our Take

Hemispheric view of Venus published in 1998 after a decade of radar research. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Hemispheric view of Venus published in 1998 after a decade of radar research. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

The reality is that we know too little about Venus. Interest in the Moon and Mars has always been higher simply because they are, so to speak, less complex. The atmosphere and the dense sulfuric acid clouds on Venus make the study extremely laborious and slow. An additional problem is that in recent years, there has only been one research spacecraft in orbit – the Japanese Akatsuki.

Maybe some of you are wondering why it will be so important if there is lightning on Venus? This may not sound like a huge discovery, but the reality is that it would completely change our understanding of the inexplicable clouds of Venus, as well as the natural processes that take place on this extraordinary planet.

Adding the other questionable discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus from earlier in the year, which suggests the possibility of life on the planet, I think it is imperative to send a new mission in this direction as soon as possible. In general, this would be the only way to confirm the existence of lightning on Venus too.

We have such interest and ambitions in studying the universe and yet we know almost nothing about Venus, an alien world just behind the corner. There is much to anticipate when it comes to future research and Venus has given us more than enough reasons to return.


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Sources: 

Andrews, R. (2020, December 28). Does lightning strike on Venus? Mysterious flash may help solve puzzle.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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