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From an NRAO press release, March 9, 2015:

From earthbound optical telescopes, the surface of Venus is shrouded beneath thick clouds made mostly of carbon dioxide. To penetrate this veil, probes like NASA’s Magellan spacecraft use radar to reveal remarkable features of this planet, like mountains, craters, and volcanoes.

Credit: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo

Credit: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo

Recently, by combining the highly sensitive receiving capabilities of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the powerful radar transmitter at the NSF’s Arecibo Observatory, astronomers were able to make remarkably detailed images of the surface of this planet without ever leaving Earth. The radar signals from Arecibo passed through both our planet’s atmosphere and the atmosphere of Venus, where they hit the surface and bounced back to be received by the GBT in a process known as bistatic radar.

This capability is essential to study not only the surface as it appears now, but also to monitor it for changes. By comparing images taken at different periods in time, scientists hope to eventually detect signs of active volcanism or other dynamic geologic processes that could reveal clues to Venus’s geologic history and subsurface conditions.

Links: NRAO press release.

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