Venus: Radar Determination of Gravity Potential

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Science  02 Feb 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4072, pp. 473-476
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4072.473


We describe a method for the determination of the gravity potential of Venus from multiple-frequency radar measurements. The method is based on the strong frequency dependence of the absorption of radio waves in Venus' atmosphere. Comparison of the differing radar reflection intensities at several frequencies yields the height of the surface relative to a reference pressure contour; combination with measurements of round-trip echo delays allows the pressure, and hence the gravity potential contour, to be mapped relative to the mean planet radius. Since calibration data from other frequencies are unavailable, the absorption-sensitive Haystack Observatory data have been analyzed under the assumption of uniform surface reflectivity to yield a gravity equipotential contour for the equatorial region and a tentative upper bound of 6 x 10-4 on the fractional difference of Venus' principal equatorial moments of inertia. The minima in the equipotential contours appear to be associated with topographic minima.