Thermal Structure and Major Ion Composition of the Venus Ionosphere: First RPA Results from Venus Orbiter

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Science  23 Feb 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4382, pp. 757-763
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4382.757


Thermal plasma quantities measured by, the retarding potential analyzer (RPA) are, together with companion Pioneer Venus measurements, the first in situ measurements of the Venus ionosphere. High ionospheric ion and electron temperatures imply significant solar wind heating of the ionosphere. Comparison of the measured altitude profiles of the dominant ions with an initial modlel indicates that the ionosphere is close to diffusive equilibrium. The ionopause height was observed to vary from 400 to 1000 kilometers in early orbits. The ionospheric particle pressure at the ionopause is apparently balanced at a solar zenith angle of about 70° by the magnetic field pressure with little contribution from energetic solar wind particles. The measured ratio of ionospheric scale height to ionopause radius is consistent with that inferred from previously measured bow shock positions.