Altimetry of the Venus cloud tops from the Venus Express observations
Publication date: 13 August 2009
Authors: Ignatiev, N.I., et al.
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Copyright: AGUSimultaneous observations of Venus by Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer and Venus Monitoring Camera onboard the Venus Express spacecraft are used to map the cloud top altitude and to relate it to the ultraviolet (UV) markings. The cloud top altitude is retrieved from the depth of CO2 absorption band at 1.6 microns. In low and middle latitudes the cloud top is located at 74 ± 1 km. It decreases poleward of ±50° and reaches 63-69 km in the polar regions. This depression coincides with the eye of the planetary vortex. At the same latitude and hour angle, cloud top can experience fast variations of about 1 km in tens of hours, while larger long-term variations of several kilometers have been observed only at high latitudes. UV markings correlate with the cloud altimetry, however, the difference between adjacent UV dark and bright regions does not exceed several hundred meters. Surprisingly, CO2 absorption bands are often weaker in the dark UV features, indicating that these clouds may be a few hundred meters higher or have a larger scale height than neighboring clouds. Ultraviolet dark spiral arms, which are often seen at about ~70°, correspond to higher altitudes or to the regions with strong latitudinal gradient of the cloud top altitude. Cloud altimetry in the polar region reveals the structure that correlates with the thermal emission maps but is invisible in UV images. This implies that the UV optically thick polar hood is transparent in the near IR.