Story at a glance

  • The Parker Solar Probe captured the first complete image of Venus’s orbital dust ring for NASA.
  • This image confirms a phenomenon first observed by NASA in the 1970s.
  • The source of the dust is still up for debate in scientific communities.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was able to capture the first complete image of Venus’s orbital dust ring.

Astronomers have long believed it was there, but the new image confirms that there is a band of microscopic dust particles that circle around the Sun along Venus’s orbit.


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“This is the first time that a circumsolar dust ring in the inner solar system could be revealed in its full glory in ‘white light’ images,” Guillermo Stenborg, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and lead researcher, told Johns Hopkins statement. “I find that pretty special.”

The phenomenon was first observed in the 1970s from NASA’s Helios spacecraft and was seen again during NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, which took place from 2007 to 2014. 

Scientists still consider the source of the dust to be up for debate. Over the years, space dust has been thought to be spawned by comet and asteroid debris, dust storms on Mars and possibly used as “the building blocks of stars and planets.”

The new research indicates that the dust band is 10 percent denser than the dust in peripheral regions.

These findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal on April 7, 2021.


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Published on Apr 21, 2021