Feb 20, 2012; 1:24 AM ET
Using an infrared camera to see through the thick atmosphere of Venus, scientists recently discovered an interesting change.
Some known surface features were displaced by around 12 miles from where they were, as measured by NASA’s Magellan orbiter in the early 1990s. This change is distance means that days on Venus are about 6-7 minutes longer than they were about 20 years ago.
This could be important information if we ever want to explore Venus so that landing sites could be selected and then tracked.
Why are the days getting longer? The most logical hypothesis is that Venus’s very dense atmosphere, which is more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s, interacts with high-speed weather systems found on the planet. This may change the planet’s rotation rate due to friction with the surface.