A series of black and white images released by NASA show the Solar Orbiter captured an eerie perspective of Venus blocking the sun on Aug. 9.
“Earth’s closest neighbor” took on the appearance of a crescent moon in the video — but with a blinding glow that filled the sky.
NASA Sun Science used the term “Venus-shine” for the glare.
“The images show Venus approaching from the left while the Sun is off camera to the upper right,” NASA Sun Science wrote on Facebook.
“The planet’s nightside, the part hidden from the Sun, appears as a dark semicircle surrounded by a bright crescent of light — glare from Venus’ incredibly bright sunlit side.”
Venus has an atmosphere so toxic and thick, it “traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect,” NASA reports. That makes it the solar system’s “hottest planet” — with surface heat of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists say. Venus also rotates backward, so “the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” NASA says.
The Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager telescope recorded the images from 4,967 miles away, according to reports from NASA and the European Space Agency. The telescope specializes in wide angles, which allowed it to catch images of two stars in the background as it passed Venus, NASA said.
“Ideally, we would have been able to resolve some features on the nightside of the planet, but there was just too much signal from the dayside,” according to Phillip Hess, astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
“Only a sliver of the dayside appears in the images, but it reflects enough sunlight to cause the bright crescent and the diffracted rays that seem to come from the surface.”
The Solar Orbiter is on a mission to record “the closest ever images of the Sun,” including observations of the solar wind and views of the sun’s north and south poles, according to the European Space Agency.
It’s hoped the observations will help in “unraveling the mysteries of the solar cycle.”