Venus: Ionosphere and Atmosphere as Measured by Dual-Frequency Radio Occultation of Mariner V

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Science  29 Dec 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3809, pp. 1678-1683
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3809.1678


Venus has daytime and nighttime ionospheres at the positions probed by radio occulation. The main layers are thin by terrestrial standards, with the nighttime peak concentration of electrons being about two orders of magnitude below that of the daytime peak. Above the nighttime peak were several scale-height regimes extending to a radius of at least 7500, and probably to 9700, kilometers from the center of Venus. Helium and hydrogen at plasma temperatures of 600° to 1100°K seem indicated in the regimes from 6300 to 7500 kilometers, with cooler molecular ions in lower regions. Above the daytime peak a sharp plasmapause was discovered, marking a sudden transition from appreciable ionization concentrations near Venus to the tenuous conditions of the solar wind. This may be indicative of a kind of interaction of the magnetized solar wind with a planetary body that differs from the two different kinds of interaction characterized by Earth and by Moon. For Venus and probably for Mars, the magnetic field of the solar wind may pile up in front of the conducting ionosphere, form an induced magnetosphere that ends at the plasmapause, above which any ionosphere that tends to form is swept away by the shocked solar wind that flows between the stand-off bow-shock and the magnetopause. The neutral atmosphere was also probed and a surface reflection may have been detected, but the data have not yet been studied in detail. Results are consistent with a super-refractive atmosphere, as expected from Soviet measurements near the surface. Thus, two unusual features of Venus can be described in terms of a light trap in the lower atmosphere, and a magnetic trap in the conducting ionosphere.