Venus Upper Atmosphere Neutral Gas Composition: First Observations of the Diurnal Variations

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Science  06 Jul 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4401, pp. 54-56
DOI: 10.1126/science.205.4401.54


Measurements of the composition, temperature, and diurnal variations of the major neutral constituents in the thermosphere of Venus are being made with a quadrupole mass spectrometer on the Pioneer Venus orbiter. Concentrations of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, molecular nitrogen, atomic oxygen, and helium are presented, in addition to an empirical model of the data. The concentrations of the heavy gases, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and molecular nitrogen, rapidly decrease from the evening terminator toward the nightside; the concentration of atomic oxygen remains nearly constant and the helium concentration increases, an indication of a nightside bulge. The kinetic temperature inferred from scale heights drops rapidly from 230 K at the terminator to 130 K at a solar zenith angle of 120°, and to 112 K at the antisolar point.