Venus Express Checkout Completed with Successful VIRTIS, VMS Images

After a planetary spacecraft is successfully launched on its long journey to its target planetary object, the various teams involved in the mission must checkout the instruments and subsystems they provided. This usually involves taking images to verify that everything is working properly. The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) and the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMS) on board The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express successfully captured images of the Earth-Moon system and demonstrated their ability to help explore the mysteries of Venus.

VIRTIS from l’Observatoire de Paris (Paris Observatory) in collaboration with l’IASF-Rome, l’IAS-Orsay and l’DLR-Berlin captures ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths of light. Different wavelengths reveal different characteristics of a planetary body, such as its reflectivity, thermal properties, atmospheric details, etc. The VIRTIS observations of the Earth-Moon system were primarily meant to checkout and calibrate the equipment, but the images may also be used for scientific comparison with future images taken of Venus.

VMS from the Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung (Max Plank Institute for Solar System Research) took the image at the top of the page showing the Moon and Earth in (counterclockwise from the top left) infrared 1, ultraviolet, visible, and infrared 2 light. The Earth is overexposed in these images because the Moon is so much smaller and fainter and therefore its image is harder to capture.

To the left is the Earth captured by VIRTIS in visible light and to the right is the Earth in infrared, revealing its thermal radiance. Antarctica is the brightest red (indicating the weakest radiance) spotch at the bottom of the globe.

Images of VIRTIS (examples below) during laboratory calibration while still located on the Earth are located on the VIRTIS team site.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (, on Goodreads (richardleis), his (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).