Electrical Properties of the Venus Surface from Bistatic Radar Observations

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Science  14 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5268, pp. 1628-1631
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5268.1628


A bistatic radar experiment in 1994, involving reception on Earth of a specularly reflected, linearly polarized 13-centimeter-wavelength signal transmitted from the Magellan spacecraft in orbit around Venus, has established that the surface materials viewed at low and intermediate altitudes on Venus have a relative dielectric permittivity of 4.0 ± 0.5. However, bistatic results for the Maxwell Montes highlands imply an electrically lossy surface with an imaginary dielectric permittivity of −i 100 ± 50, probably associated with a specific conductivity of about 13 mhos per meter. Candidates for highlands surface composition include ferroelectrics, a thin frost of elemental tellurium, or a plating of magnetite or pyrites.