Venus Upper Atmosphere Neutral Composition: Preliminary Results from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter

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Science  23 Feb 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4382, pp. 770-772
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4382.770


Measurements in situ of the neutral composition and temperature of the thermosphere of Venus are being made with a quadrupole mass spectrometer on the Pioneer Venus orbiter. The presence of many gases, incluiding the major constituents CO2, CO, N2, O, and He has been confirmed. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant constituent at altitudes below about 155 kilometers in the terminator region. Above this altitude atomic oxygen is the major constituent, with O/CO2 ratios in the upper atmosphere being greater than was commonly expected. Isotope ratios of O and C are close to terrestrial values. The temperature inferred from scale heights above 180 kilometers is about 400 K on the dayside near the evening terminator at a solar zenith angle of about 69°. It decreases to about 230 K when the solar zenith angle is about 90°.