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The escape of oxygen and carbon was observed on Venus

The escape of oxygen and carbon was observed on Venus

A quick visit by the BepiColombo mission to Venus revealed startling insights into how gases are stripped from the planet's magnetosphere.

Unlike Earth, Venus does not generate a magnetic field in its core. However, the weak “induced magnetosphere” arises from the interaction of charged particles emitted by the Sun (the solar wind) with electrically charged particles in Venus' upper atmosphere.

It's very similar to Earth but also very different

Early in its history, Venus shared many similarities with Earth, including… Large amounts of liquid water. Due to interactions with the solar wind, the water disappeared The atmosphere now consists mainly of carbon dioxide and small amounts of nitrogen. Previous missions, including NASA's Pioneer Venus Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Venus Express, have conducted detailed studies of the type and quantity of charged particles and particles scattered in space. However, the orbital paths imposed by the missions have left some areas unexplored, and many questions remain unanswered.

A schematic view of planetary matter emerging from the side of the magnetosphere Venus. The red line and arrow show the area and direction of the BepiColombo observations when the escaping ions (C+, O+, H+) are observed
Credit: Thibaut Roger / Europlanet 2024 RI / Hadid et al.

Contributed by Beppe Colombo

On August 10, 2021, BepiColombo passed by Venus to slow down and correct course toward its final destination: Mercury. In about 90 minutes of observations, BepiColombo's instruments made the measurement The number and mass of charged particles encountered, and capture information about the chemical and physical processes that prompt their escape. This is the first time it has been noticed Carbon ions are positively charged That escapes the atmosphere of Venus. It's about to Heavy ions It usually moves slowly, so scientists are still trying to understand the mechanisms at play. It is possible that electrostatic “winds” are lifting it off the planet, or it could be accelerated thanks to centrifugal processes. Describing the loss of heavy ions and understanding the escape mechanisms on Venus are crucial to understanding how the planet's atmosphere evolved and how it lost all its water. The results obtained do not yet provide a comprehensive answer. This study is an important step to finding out The truth about the historical development of the atmosphere of Venus Upcoming missions will help fill many gaps.

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