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June 30, 2015

Venus, as seen in radar with the GBT

A projection of radar data of Venus collected in 2012. Striking surface features such as mountains and ridges are easily seen. The black diagonal band at the center represents areas too close to the Doppler "equator" to obtain well-resolved image data.

The surface of Venus is shrouded beneath thick clouds--made mostly of carbon dioxide--and therefore difficult to see from Earth using optical telescopes. In order to penetrate this vail, astronomers must use radar to reveal the planet's features.

Astronomers combined the highly sensitive receiving capabilities of the National Science Foundations (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the powerful radar transmitter at NSFs Arecibo Observatory to create detailed images of the surface of Venus. The radar signals from Arecibo pass through both the Earths atmosphere and the atmosphere of Venus, where they hit the surface and bounce back to be received by the GBT in a process known as bistatic radar.

In addition to studying the planet's surface now, this capability will allow scientists to monitor it for changes by comparing images taken at different periods in time. Scientists hope to eventually detect signs of active volcanism or other dynamic geologic processes that could reveal clues to Venus's geologic history and subsurface conditions. (Date of Image: 1996/2012)

Credit: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo

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