Composition and Structure of the Venus Atmosphere: Results from Pioneer Venus

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Science  06 Jul 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4401, pp. 49-52
DOI: 10.1126/science.205.4401.49


Results from the Pioneer Venus sounder probe neutral mass spectrometer indicate that there is no difference in the isotopic ratios of carbon and oxygen between Venus and Earth to within ± 5 percent. The mixing ratio of nitrogen is 3.5+3-2 percent with an isotopic ratio within 20 percent of that of Earth. The ratio of argon-36 to argon-40 is 85 percent, and the ratio of argon-38 to argon-36 is 20 percent. The mixing ratios of argon-36 and argon-40 are approximately 40 and 50 parts per million, respectively, with an error of about a factor of 2 (mainly toward a lesser amount) resulting from uncertainty in the response of the ion pump to rare gases. Hydrogen chloride cannot account for more than a few percent of the 36 mass peak, and therefore the large excess of primordial argon is a reasonable conclusion. The ratio of neon-20 to argon-36 of 0.5 ± 0.3 is definitely terrestrial in character rather than solar. These results indicate that there is a large excess of all primordial noble gases on Venus relative to Earth. There appears to be a considerably higher abundance of sulfur compounds below 20 kilometers than in or above the main cloud layer. The 32 and 60 mass peaks show a sharp increase below 22 kilometers, indicating the possible production of sulfur and carbon oxysulfide (COS) at the expense of sulfur dioxide.