A black and white image of a world with dark spots, bright glows and the surface streaked with light streaks.
It is the face of Venus in an unedited shot captured by NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission, during its journey to the Sun, to study the origin and characteristics of the solar wind.
Launched in August 2018, the probe is expected to approach the Sun on Christmas Eve 2024. The photo was taken from a distance of just over 12,000 kilometers, during the close pass on Venus in July 2020. It is one of the seven close flights planned during the mission, to adjust the probe's course and bring it closer to the Sun.
The photo shows numerous bright streaks due, according to NASA researchers, to a combination of factors: charged particles of cosmic rays, sunlight reflected by grains of space dust and particles of material ejected from the spacecraft's structures after impact with the grains of dust.
The great dark spot in the center of the image is, on the other hand, the largest mountainous region on the Venusian surface, Aphrodite Earth, as large as Africa and located near the planet's equator.
The lower dark spot is, however, an artifact of the probe instrument.
Finally, the image of the probe shows on the right a glow around the edge of Venus, which could represent a nocturnal glow.
According to those responsible for the mission, the light could be linked to the presence in the planet's atmosphere of oxygen atoms that recombine into gas molecules.
At the end of April, NASA researchers are expected to make public more photos of Venus taken by the Parker Solar Probe, relating to the close passage on the planet in the days of late February 2021.