Have you ever looked out of an airplane and seen a rainbow-colored circle of light? That is what is known as a Glory. This year, astronomers were able to photograph one – on Venus.

READ MORE // Exoplanet next door looks a lot like Earth

For the first time astronomers have imaged a glory on another planet.

Glory on Venus
The glory on Venus cloud tops in false colors. The center of the concentric colored circles is the pale yellow patch in the left half of the image. The glory extends over at least 1200 km. The data were recorded on July 24th, 2011. Not only visible light, but all wavelengths contribute to the glory. In order to also make the ultraviolet and infrared contributions visible, in this false color representation each wavelength in the camera data is accounted for by a different color.

Glorys are an optical phenomenon and occur when sunlight scatters off tiny liquid particles – usually water in clouds – and refracts the light back into rings. The image on venus was taken by combining three wavelengths (ultraviolet, visible and near infrared) into a single false color picture.  After analyzing the image, scientists determined that Venus’ clouds are not purely made of sulphuric acid, as once thought.

Glory on Earth
A glory on Earth: Colored, concentric circles surround the shadow of the aircraft resembling a ring-shaped rainbow.
© Wikimedia Commons

Based on the pattern of refraction, Astronomers hypothesize Venus’ clouds may also contain iron chloride and pure sulphur as well.

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