Thermal structure and energy influx to the day- and nightside Venus ionosphere

W. C. Knudsen, K. Spenner, R. C. Whitten, J. R. Spreiter, K. L. Miller, V. Novak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Pioneer Venus in situ measurements made with the retarding potential analyzer reveal strong variations in the nightside ionospheric plasma density from location to location in some orbits and from orbit to orbit. The ionopause is evident at night as a relatively abrupt decrease in the thermal plasma concentration from a few hundred to ten or fewer ions per cubic centimeter. The nightside ion and electron temperatures above an altitude of 250 kilometers, within the ionosphere and away from the terminator, are comparable in magnitude and have a value at the ionopause of approximately 8000 K. The electron temperature increases from a few tens of thousands of degrees Kelvin just outside the ionopause to several hundreds of thousands of degrees Kelvin further into the shocked solar wind. The coldest ion temperatures measured at an altitude of about 145 kilometers are 140 to 150 K and are still evidently above the neutral temperature. Preliminary day- and nightside model ion and electron temperature height profiles are compared with measured profiles. To raise the model ion temperature to the measured ion temperature on both day- and nightsides, it was necessary to include an ion energy source of the order of 4 × 10-3 erg per square centimeter per second, presumably Joule heating. The heat flux through the electron gas from the solar wind into the neutral atmosphere averaged over day and night may be as large as 0.05 erg per square centimeter per second. Integrated over the planet surface, this heat flux represents one-tenth of the solar wind energy expended in drag on the sunward ionopause hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-107
Number of pages3
Issue number4401
StatePublished - 1979
Externally publishedYes


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