Sciency Words: Ashen Light

Sciency Words MATH

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:


First observed in 1643, ashen light is an as yet unexplained phenomenon on the planet Venus. It’s a mysterious aura or glow sometimes seen on the planet’s night side.

The light can’t be sunlight (this is the night side, after all), and it can’t be reflected moonlight since Venus doesn’t have any moons.

At one time, scientists thought ashen light could be evidence of alien life (maybe the light comes from cities?), but at this point, I think we can rule that possibility out.

Some scientists have dismissed ashen light as an optical illusion, and maybe they’re right. None of the space probes we’ve sent to Venus have been able to detect the phenomenon. Then again, it took decades for our probes to confirm the existence of Moreton waves on the Sun.

So what do you think is going on on Venus? What secrets is our nearest planetary neighbor hiding?


Jan 9, 1643: Astronomer Sees Ashen Light of Venus from

The “Loch Ness” of Venus from Sky News.

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