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Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft sends first image from Venus

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released this image of Venus was captured by the Akatsuki spacecraft’s Ultraviolet Imager (UVI) from 72,000 kilometres above the planet’s surface.

Akatsuki was manoeuvred into orbit around the planet earlier this week, with JAXA announcing the spacecraft’s “good health”.

It was a relief for the Japanese mission which failed in an attempt to insert Akatsuki in December 2010 when a main engine failed and the spacecraft zipped past the planet.

It has spent five years orbiting the sun in order to catch up with Venus and try again.

“As a result of measuring and calculating the Akatsuki’s orbit after its thrust ejection, the orbiter is now flying on the elliptical orbit at the apoapsis altitude of about 400 kilometres and periapsis altitude of about 440,000 kilometres from Venus,” JAXA said in a statement.

“The orbit period is 13 days and 14 hours. We also found that the orbiter is flying in the same direction as that of Venus’s rotation.”

Akatsuki’s mission is to investigate Venus’s atmosphere – a thick, toxic perpetual cloud – and to look for volcanic and lightning activity.

The planet’s surface at 462 °C is hot enough to melt lead.

You can read more about Akatsuki’s mission here.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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