Venus Lower Atmospheric Composition: Analysis by Gas Chromatography

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Science  23 Feb 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4382, pp. 802-805
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4382.802


The first gas chromatographic analysis of the lower atmosphere of Venus is reported. Three atmospheric samples were analyzed. The third of these samples showed carbon dioxide (96.4 percent), molecular nitrogen (3.41 percent), water vapor (0.135 percent), molecular oxygen [69.3 parts per million (ppm)], argon (18.6 ppm), neon (4.31 ppm), and sulfuir dioxide (186 ppm). The amounts of water vapor and sulfur dioxide detected are roughly compatible with the requirements of greenhouse models of the high surface temperature of Venus. The large positive gradient of sulfur dioxide, molecular oxygen, and water vapor from the clould tops to their bottoms, as implied by Earth-based observations and these resuilts, gives added support for the presence of major quantities of aqueous sulfuric acid in the clouds. A comparison of the inventory of inert gases found in the atmospheres of Venus, Earth, and Mars suggests that these components are due to outgassing from the planetary interiors.