Venus Glory Captured by ESA Express Orbiter

Mar 12, 2014 01:03 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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The Venus Express orbiter of European Space Agency (ESA) has captured a rainbow like feature in the atmosphere of the planet Venus for the first time ever, according to a release issued by the ESA.

The rainbow like feature was captured back on July 24, 2011, but was just released this week by the ESA.

This is the first time that a complete image of the 1200 km wide "glory" has ever been captured in the atmosphere of another planet, according to the ESA.

Rainbows and glories appear when sunlight falls water droplets in the atmosphere. Rainbows form an arch across the sky whereas a glory is smaller and consists of a number of colored concentric rings with a bright core.

On Earth, they are most visible when traveling in an airplane flying above the clouds, according to the ESA.

Venus, commonly known as the brightest planet, has an atmosphere filled with droplets that are concentrated in sulphuric acid.

"The variations of brightness of the rings of the observed glory is different than that expected from clouds of only sulphuric acid mixed with water, suggesting that other chemistry may be at play," said the ESA.

The images were taken at the Venus cloud tops, approximately 7 km above the planet's surface, according to the ESA.

The cloud particles are approximately 1.2 micrometers across, or around a fiftieth of the width of a human hair.

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