First Venus Express public data release
22 September 2008Data from the VMC, SPICAV-SOIR, VIRTIS and MAG instruments on Venus Express have been delivered to the ESA Planetary System Archive and are now freely available to interested users. These data have been the basis for some of the first scientific highlights from the Venus Express mission.
Results from the first few months of Venus Express scientific operations were reported in the 29 November 2007 issue of Nature magazine. Among the highlights reported at that time were:The first detailed, three-dimensional, investigation into the planet’s atmosphere which revealed details of the temporal and spatial behaviour of the circulation of the Venusian atmosphere;
The detection at the south pole of a rotating polar dipole – images of unprecedented detail unveiled an occasional double-eye structure attributed to two centres rotating in an anticlockwise direction;
Determination of the molecular and ionic emission from the upper atmosphere of the planet, and early measurements of the composition of the atmosphere;
The first application of stellar and solar occultation techniques to the atmosphere of Venus resulting in the detection of an extensive layer of warm air at altitudes of 90-120 km on the night side;
Confirmation of the huge loss of water from the planet with improved measurements of the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen;
First measurements at solar minimum of the magnetic field in the plasma environment surrounding Venus;
The detection of whistler-type waves — low-frequency electromagnetic waves that last for a fraction of a second and are thought to originate with an electrical discharge - indicating the presence of lightning in the Venusian atmosphere.
A treasure trove of information
The data sets that are available from the Planetary Science Archive (PSA) are the exact products released by the Principle Investigator teams. For all instruments users will find the raw data, along with instructions for calibrating the data. In some case the calibrated data is also provided. This first data release covers the early part of the nominal mission period (see table).
Standards & quality assurance
Almost all of the data distributed by the PSA adheres to the Planetary Data System (PDS) specifications – the de facto standard for all data from missions to planetary bodies. As a result the data sets can be read using standard PDS tools. Special software is provided for the VIRTIS data since it is somewhat more complex in nature.
Prior to being accepted in the PSA each data package must satisfy quality standards that have been previously agreed between the Principal Investigator teams and the PSA. A peer-review process is performed for all data submitted to the PSA.
How to access the data
The data is available to download from the ESA Planetary Science Archive (see link on right-hand menu). For this first release the data can be downloaded using the Dataset Browser Interface. Each dataset is accompanied by a comprehensive set of documentation describing the mission, instruments, data collection and data treatment.
Future data releases
Data sets from SPICAV (UV and IR channels), ASPERA-4 and VERA are expected to be released later this year and the team anticipate more frequent releases of the remaining Venus Express data in the future.
The Planetary Science Archive
The Planetary Science Archive is the official, long-term archive for data produced by ESA’s planetary missions. The PSA provides reviewed and validated data products to the scientific community via a single interface and using a method independent of the instrument or mission. The majority of the data products adhere to the Planetary Data System (PDS) Standards. As a result the worldwide scientific community can work with a well-known standard. Once the proprietary period for the principal investigators has passed the data is prepared, reviewed and ingested into the PSA.
Håkan Svedhem, Venus Express Project Scientist
David Heather, Planetary Science Archive Manager