An unstable climate birthed by a tidally-locked planet could create a runaway
greenhouse effect that could result in an atmosphere like Venus’s.
CREDIT: NASA/Magellan

Atmosphere of Venus Has Strange Magnetic ‘Ropes’

by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE Contributor
Date: 10 January 2013 Time: 10:50 AM ET

Strange, newly discovered structures in Venus’ atmosphere are redrawing scientists’ perceptions of the planet’s magnetic environment.

The European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft spotted these enormous magnetic entities — called flux ropes — stretching for hundreds of miles in the planet’s upper atmosphere, above the poles.

Flux ropes have been seen before around other planets, including Earth. They transport superheated plasma gas from one side of the “rope” to the other. But on Venus, scientists don’t know why these phenomena form in the atmosphere, according to a paper published Dec. 26 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. How long they exist, and how they dissipate, are also mysteries.

“It is a huge surprise,” study leader Tielong Zhang, who holds dual affiliations at research institutions in China and Austria, wrote in an email to SPACE.com.

Read more: Baffling Magnetic Structures Spotted in Venus' Atmosphere | Space.

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