Composition and Structure of the Martian Upper Atmosphere: Analysis of Results from Viking

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Science  17 Dec 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4271, pp. 1295-1298
DOI: 10.1126/science.194.4271.1295


Densities for carbon dioxide measured by the upper atmospheric mass spectrometers on Viking 1 and Viking 2 are analyzed to yield height profiles for the temperature of the martian atmosphere between 120 and 200 kilometers. Densities for nitrogen and argon are used to derive vertical profiles for the eddy diffusion coefficient over the same height range. The upper atmosphere of Mars is surprisingly cold with average temperatures for both Viking 1 and Viking 2 of less than 200°K, and there is significant vertical structure. Model calculations are presented and shown to be in good agreement with measured concentrations of carbon monoxide, oxygen, and nitric oxide.