Venus Ionosphere: Photochemical and Thermal Diffusion Control of Ion Composition

Science  06 Jul 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4401, pp. 109-112
DOI: 10.1126/science.205.4401.109


The major photochemical sources and sinks for ten of the ions measured by the ion mass spectrometer on the Pioneer Venus bus and orbiter spacecraft that are consistent with the neutral gas composition measured on the same spacecraft have been identified. The neutral gas temperature (Tn) as a function of solar zenith angle (χ) derived from measured ion distributions in photochemical equilibrium is given by Tn (K) = 323 cos1/5χ. Above 200 kilometers, the altitude behavior of ions is generally controlled by plasma diffusion, with important modifications for minor ions due to thermal diffusion resulting from the observed gradients of plasma temperatures. The dayside equilibrium distributions of ions are sometimes perturbed by plasma convection, while lateral transport of ions from the dayside seems to be a major source of the nightside ionosphere.