This Beautiful Blur of Colour is a Space Rainbow Over Venus

By Jamie Condliffe on at

This isn't some sort of alien test card beamed from Venus, but a rainbow-like optical phenomenon known as a glory in the atmosphere of our nearest planetary neighbour.

In fact, it's the first time a glory has ever been imaged on another planet, and it was snapped by the European Space Agency's Venus Express. ESA explains how glories form:

Rainbows and glories occur when sunlight shines on cloud droplets – water particles in the case of Earth. While rainbows arch across wide swathes of the sky, glories are typically much smaller and comprise a series of coloured concentric rings centred on a bright core. Glories are only seen when the observer is situated directly between the Sun and the cloud particles that are reflecting sunlight. On Earth, they are often seen from aeroplanes, surrounding the shadow of the aircraft on the clouds below, or around the shadow of climbers atop misty mountain peaks.

Scientists have hoped to spot a glory in Venus's atmosphere for some time—in fact, they've spent years modelling what it might look like—and now they've finally managed it.[ESA]

Image by ESA