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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

European scientists released new photos of Venus' south pole Thursday, revealing a swirling mass of sulfuric acid clouds powered by 220 mph winds.

The clouds, 13 miles deep, completely enclose Venus. The new images of the planet's south pole, which is turned away from Earth, closely resemble those of its more familiar north pole.

The images, taken from the European Space Agency's orbiting Venus Express spacecraft from a distance of roughly 124,000 miles, show pale clouds turning around a dark vortex.

"We can see there is a swirl here that is similar to the one we know from the north pole," said Horst Uwe Keller, who leads the team operating the craft's wide-angle camera - one of seven instruments aboard the Venus Express.

Using infrared technology that allows the camera to peer though the clouds, scientists hope to be able to determine how the sulfuric acid that swathes the planet was formed, and pinpoint the cause of the high-speed winds that sends it swirling in massive clouds.

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