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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Scientists Release New Venus Images

Photo Courtesy of ESA
Dark Vortex over South Pole of Venus
Photo Courtesy of ESA
False-colour ultraviolet image of day and night side at South pole of Venus
Photo Courtesy of ESA
Ultraviolet image of day and night side at South pole of Venus
Associated Press Writer

"I think that the decisive question will be to discover the dynamic of the atmosphere," Keller said. "Why are the clouds turning in the direction that we see? Why so quickly?"

The images were taken Wednesday, one day after Venus Express went into orbit around the planet.

ESA controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, switched on each instrument individually to make sure they had survived slowing the vessel so it could be captured by Venus' gravity.

In the next several weeks, scientists will run more thorough tests on the spacecraft's instruments, designed to help researchers better understand the atmosphere and climate of Earth's neighbor. By June, they expect to have all instruments fully functioning.

As the spacecraft tightens its orbit in coming months, scientists expect it to capture more detailed and revealing images of Venus from a distance of only about 155 miles, Keller said in a telephone interview.

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