Did you ever walk down the street on a particularly windy day and feel like you're being pushed? The planet Venus knows all about that. Researchers studying the nearby planet have discovered this really strange phenomenon, calculating that the planet's thick atmosphere and intense wind cause the planet's rotation to accelerate by a measurable amount.
The research, published in Nature Geoscience was conducted by Thomas Navarro, a UCLA scientist, and his team. The researchers performed simulations based on observational data and were able to determine that the unpredictable rate of rotation of the vaporous planet is due to its atmosphere pushing against its mountainous terrain.
Venus is the planet closest to Earth, so astronomers have had enough time to study its behavior. By measuring their rotation speed, researchers have been baffled by readings that simply did not match. The planet turns incredibly slow, but the time it takes to complete a full rotation can vary by almost ten minutes. That is an incredibly large disparity in such short deadlines, so Navarro and his team set out to discover why it was happening.
In 2015, a spacecraft from the Japanese space agency JAXA captured an image of the planet that offered a track. The photo showed an absolutely mbadive wave in the thick atmosphere of the planet. You can clearly see the peculiar wave that covers almost the entire length of the planet in the image above.
Scientists finally determined that the wave was created from the fast moving atmosphere by striking against the characteristics of the planet's surface. This intense wind hits the mountains of Venus, moving at more than 200 miles per hour, and the simulations show that the force is enough to change the speed with which the planet turns.
So, if Venus is constantly pushed from its own atmosphere, why does it not finally reach rotation speeds that match its incredible winds? Researchers are still working to solve that part of the enigma, but believe that other factors, such as the gravitational pull of the Sun on the planet, may be fighting a constant battle with the atmosphere of Venus that prevents them from reaching the same speed as their atmosphere.