LOOKING BACK THE SKY AT NIGHT
6 November 2006
On 6 November 2006, The Sky at
Night covered the work being done by the Venus Express spacecraft, which had arrived at the second planet from the Sun in April that year. The world had long intrigued astronomers, as its thick clouds shroud the planet from view. In the episode, Patrick Moore remarked how he and many others used to believe that beneath the clouds lay a verdant world. Though the Soviet Venera programme which ran from 1961 to 1984 dispelled this notion, in 2006 the planet still held many mysteries.
In November 2005, the European Space Agency launched Venus Express. On arrival, it used radar to pierce through the clouds, finding evidence of recent volcanism on the planet’s surface. The probe’s other instruments examined the Venusian atmosphere, helping scientists gain a better understanding of how planetary atmospheres work not just on Venus, but on other planets too, including Earth.
The Venus Express revealed how volatile the atmosphere of Venus is