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Ablation of Venusian oxygen ions by unshocked solar wind

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Fränz,  Markus
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Dubinin,  E. M.
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Wei, Y., Fränz, M., Dubinin, E. M., Wan, W., Zhang, T., Rong, Z., et al. (2017). Ablation of Venusian oxygen ions by unshocked solar wind. Science Bulletin, 62(24), 1669-1672. doi:10.1016/j.scib.2017.11.006.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-41AB-5
Abstract
As an Earth-like planet Venus probably had a primordial dipole field for several million years after formation of the planet. Since this dipole field eventually vanished the ionosphere of Venus has been exposed to the solar wind. The solar wind is shocked near Venus, and then scavenges the ionospheric particles through the magnetosheath and the magnetotail. The escape rate of oxygen ions (O+) estimated from spacecraft observations over the past several decades has manifested its importance for the evolution of planetary habitability, considering the accumulated effect over the history of Venus. However, all the previous observations were made in the shocked solar wind and/or inside the wake, though some simulations showed that unshocked solar wind can also ablate O+ ions. Here we report Venus Express observations of O+ ions in the unshocked solar wind during the solar minimum. The observations suggest that these O+ ions are accelerated by the unshocked solar wind through pickup processes. The estimated O+ escape rate, 2.1 × 1024 ions/s, is comparable to those measured in the shocked solar wind and the wake. This escape rate could result in about 2 cm global water loss over 4.5 billion years. Our results suggest that the atmospheric loss at unmagnetized planets is significantly underestimated by previous observations, and thus we can emphasize the importance of an Earth-like dipole for planetary habitability.