Electron Temperatures and Densities in the Venus Ionosphere: Pioneer Venus Orbiter Electron Temperature Probe Results

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Science  23 Feb 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4382, pp. 763-765
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4382.763


Altitude profiles of electron temperature and density in the ionosphere of Venus have been obtained by the Pioneer Venus orbiter electron temperatutre probe. Elevated temperatutres observed at times of low solar wind flux exhibit height profiles that are consistent with a model in which less than 5 percent of the solar wind energy is deposited at the ionopause and is conducted downward through an unmagnetized ionosphere to the region below 200 kilomneters where electron cooling to the neutral atmosphere proceeds rapidly. When solar wind fluxes are higher, the electron temperatures and densities are highly structured and the ionopause moves to lower altitudes. The ionopause height in the late afternoon sector observed thus far varies so widely from day to (day that any height variation with solar zenith angle is not apparent in the observations. In the neighborhood of the ionopause, measuremnents of plasma temperatures and densities and magnetic field strength indicate that an induced magnetic barrier plays an important role in the pressure transfer between the solar wind and the ionosphere. The bow, shock is marked by a distinct increase in electron current collected by the instrument, a featutre that provides a convenient identification of the bow shock location.