An image of the cloud-tops of Venus as photographed by Akatsuki’s ultraviolet instrument in 2019. Image credit: Planet-C Project Team
For decades, scientists have suspected that bolts of electricity pulse through the thick atmosphere of Venus, perhaps glinting off the world’s acidic clouds.
Tantalising glimpses have kept their hopes up, but all are hints. Scientists need more definitive signs, which remain elusive even three years into a dedicated lightning-hunter’s orbit of our near-twin planet. It’s the slow, frustrating, confusing reality of science that often slips out of the story of discoveries.
“When you read the history books, it all reads a bit like a crossword puzzle: you know, somebody came along and measured this and found this and everything all fit,” Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of a new paper about that dedicated lightning instrument’s observations at Venus, told Space.com. “It’s really much more like a detective story, where the detective’s getting this testimony from this person and this testimony from that person.”
And so far, that detective isn’t making much progress cracking the case. “It’s impossible to take all of the reported observations at face value and make sense ...