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Venus Upper Clouds and the UV Absorber From MESSENGER/MASCS Observations

Pérez-Hoyos, Santiago; Sánchez‐Lavega, Agustin; García Muñoz, Antonio; Irwin, Patrick G. J.; Peralta, Javier; Holsclaw, Gregory; McClintock, William; Sanz‐Requena, José Francisco

One of the most intriguing, long‐standing questions regarding Venus's atmosphere is the origin and distribution of the unknown UV absorber, responsible for the absorption band detected at the near‐UV and blue range of Venus's spectrum. In this work, we use data collected by Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) spectrograph on board the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission during its second Venus flyby in June 2007 to address this issue. Spectra range from 0.3 μm to 1.5 μm including some gaseous H2O and CO2 bands, as well as part of the SO2 absorption band and the core of the UV absorption. We used the NEMESIS radiative transfer code and retrieval suite to investigate the vertical distribution of particles in the equatorial atmosphere and to retrieve the imaginary refractive indices of the UV absorber, assumed to be well mixed with Venus's small mode 1 particles. The results show a homogeneous equatorial atmosphere, with cloud tops (height for unity optical depth) at 75 ± 2 km above surface. The UV absorption is found to be centered at 0.34 ± 0.03 μm with a full width at half maximum of 0.14 ± 0.01 μm. Our values are compared with previous candidates for the UV aerosol absorber, among which disulfur oxide (S2O) and dioxide disulfur (S2O2) provide the best agreement with our results.
Published in: Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 10.1002/2017JE005406, American Geophysical Union
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