École Polytechnique’s Student Research probes Venus structure
A team of X18 students participating in the REXUS/BEXUS program sent their experimental project in a stratospheric balloon to the edge of space to see what it could teach us about the planet Venus. What do the results show about using similar techniques to probe Venus and help us learn more about the solar system?
Understanding the evolution of terrestrial planets such as Venus, Earth, and Mars is an important step in understanding our entire solar system. Venus is particularly interesting because of its similarity to Earth – for example, at an altitude of 55 km, the planet’s atmosphere virtually replicates earth’s, with a pressure of 0.5 atm and a temperature of 27 °C. However, the extreme surface conditions on Venus (460 °C and 92 atm) render it virtually impossible to use exploratory landing vehicles with ground sensors to .
Researchers from ISAE-Supaero and JPL found a solution: deploy barometers on balloons that could get close enough to study the infrasonic waves produced by seismic events on the Venusian surface, while remaining at a safe distance. The DESTINY project tests this solution
Two aluminum boxes, each carrying a barometer and sensors, had been installed on the balloon: one box inside the gondola (GB), the other box on the flight train (FTB), which is between the cables connecting the gondola to the balloon. Distancing the boxes by 32,5 m, the configuration allowed to register data via barometers located in distinct positions.
The goal of the experiment was to characterize the in order to recognize specific signals and locate their source, and more precisely the epicenter of a geophysical event. 800kg TNT equivalent at a distance of 240 km from the experiment was used as the “infrasound event.” The students would
The analyzed data revealed that the ground explosion had indeed been registered by one barometer as many as three times. The DESTINY team deduced from this result that the shock wave generated by the explosion had followed three different paths in the stratosphere, rebounding on different strata in the atmosphere.
As only one of the two barometers had sufficiently
project DESTINY (Detection of Earthquakes through a STratospheric INfrasound study) is conducted with the Students Space Center and ISAE-Supaero, and Carried out within Earth’s atmosphere to recognize and source infrasound events, the experiment results should be applicable to further explorations on Venus, designed to add to the scientific understanding of the solar system.