The Physical Origin of the Venus Low Atmosphere Chemical Gradient

Abstract : Venus shares many similarities with the Earth, but concomitantly, some of its features are extremely original. This is especially true for its atmosphere, where high pressures and temperatures are found at the ground level. In these conditions, carbon dioxide, the main component of Venus' atmosphere, is a supercritical fluid. The analysis of VeGa-2 probe data has revealed the high instability of the region located in the last few kilometers above the ground level. Recent works have suggested an explanation based on the existence of a vertical gradient of molecular nitrogen abundances, around 5 ppm per meter. Our goal was then to identify which physical processes could lead to the establishment of this intriguing nitrogen gradient, in the deep atmosphere of Venus. Using an appropriate equation of state for the binary mixture CO 2-N 2 under supercritical conditions, and also molecular dynamics simulations, we have investigated the separation processes of N 2 and CO 2 in the Venusian context. Our results show that molecular diffusion is strongly inefficient, and potential phase separation is an unlikely mechanism. We have compared the quantity of CO 2 required to form the proposed gradient with what could be released by a diffuse degassing from a low volcanic activity. The needed fluxes of CO 2 are not so different from what can be measured over some terrestrial volcanic systems, suggesting a similar effect at work on Venus.
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Daniel Cordier, David Bonhommeau, Sara Port, Vincent Chevrier, Sébastien Lebonnois, et al.. The Physical Origin of the Venus Low Atmosphere Chemical Gradient. The Astrophysical Journal, American Astronomical Society, 2019, 880 (2), pp.82. ⟨10.3847/1538-4357/ab27bd⟩. ⟨hal-02268637⟩

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