This triple image provides a close-up view of the double-eyed vortex at Venus south pole, as seen by the Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-Infrared spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board ESA’s Venus Express. The images were taken on 29 May 2006, from a distance of about 64 000 kilometres from the planet. All the separate images can be downloaded here:
The vortex is imaged at different infrared wavelengths, corresponding to different atmospheric depths. The left image (taken at 5.05 microns) correspond to an atmospheric altitude of about 59 kilometres, just about the Venusian cloud deck. The central image (taken at 4.65 microns) corresponds to an atmospheric altitude of about 60 kilometres. The right image (taken at 4.08 microns) corresponds to an altitude of about 65 kilometres, just in the upper clouds. The images were taken with a 20º inclination with respect to vertical pointing.
The brighter the colour, the more radiation is reaching out from the hot layers below. The brightest spot correspond to the centre of the vortex, where radiation from the deeper layers become clearly visible , like looking through a hole.
The dark circular structures surrounding the brighter area belong to the big vortex structure (bottom of the images) - as large as a big portion of Europe (2500 kilometres across) - and are part of the planet atmospheric super-rotation. The left image also clearly shows a complex structure, where many more small structures are visible.