Venus’ Storms Up Close

Japan’s Akatsuki probe, recovered after a five-year detour to the sun, sent back incredible new images.

New infrared and ultraviolet light images that reveal the stormy cloud structure on Venus have been released from the Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency, or JAXA, Akatsuki space probe. Launched in 2010, Akatsuki malfunctioned and failed to enter orbit around Venus, and instead found itself locked in orbit around the sun. Engineers on the team refused to give up, subtly nudging it back on track toward Venus using the craft’s smaller maneuvering thrusters. 

It took five years, but the observations from its image sensors will be well worth it: the climate orbiter aims to unravel the many mysteries of Venus, particularly its atmospheric dynamics. It will also search for active volcanoes on the surface.