Venus shifts gear: Scientists puzzle as planet is found to be spinning slower than it should

The Venus Express spacecraft has peered through the crushing and poisonous atmosphere of the planet, and found that it’s spinning slower than expected.

Using the orbiter’s VIRTIS spectrograph at infrared wavelengths, to penetrate the thick cloud cover, scientists studied surface features and discovered that some were more than 10 miles from where they should be.

The length of Venus’s day is 6.5 minutes shorter than previously thought. The discovery could help scientists understand the forces at work on the hostile planet, and plan missions to its surface.

These detailed measurements from orbit are helping scientists determine whether Venus has a solid or liquid core, which will help our understanding of the planet’s creation and how it evolved.

The orbit could be being affected by Venus’s dense atmosphere – more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s and high-speed weather systems, which are believed to change the planet’s rotation rate through friction with the surface.

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