Structure, Luminosity, and Dynamics of the Venus Thermosphere

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We review here observations and models related to the chemical and thermal structures, airglow and auroral emissions and dynamics of the Venus thermosphere, and compare empirical models of the neutral densities based in large part on in situ measurements obtained by the Pioneer Venus spacecraft. Observations of the intensities of emissions are important as a diagnostic tool for understanding the chemical and physical processes taking place in the Venus thermosphere. Measurements, ground-based and from rockets, satellites, and spacecraft, and model predictions of atomic, molecular and ionic emissions, are presented and the most important sources are elucidated. Coronas of hot hydrogen and hot oxygen have been observed to surround the terrestrial planets. We discuss the observations of and production mechanisms for the extended exospheres and models for the escape of lighter species from the atmosphere. Over the last decade and a half, models have attempted to explain the unexpectedly cold temperatures in the Venus thermosphere; recently considerable progress has been made, although some controversies remain. We review the history of these models and discuss the heating and cooling mechanisms that are presently considered to be the most important in determining the thermal structure. Finally, we discuss major aspects of the circulation and dynamics of the thermosphere: the sub-solar to anti-solar circulation, superrotation, and turbulent processes.


Invited review for the special issue of Space Science Reviews on Venus Aeronomy, edited by C. T. Russell.