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The Electric Wind of Venus: A Global and Persistent Polar Wind -Like Ambipolar Electric Field Sufficient for the Direct Escape of Heavy Ionospheric IonsUnderstanding what processes govern atmospheric escape and the loss of planetary water is of paramount importance for understanding how life in the universe can exist. One mechanism thought to be important at all planets is an ambipolar electric field that helps ions overcome gravity. We report the discovery and first quantitative extraterrestrial measurements of such a field at the planet Venus. Unexpectedly, despite comparable gravity, we show the field to be five times stronger than in Earths similar ionosphere. Contrary to our understanding, Venus would still lose heavy ions (including oxygen and all water-group species) to space, even if there were no stripping by the solar wind. We therefore find that it is possible for planets to lose heavy ions to space entirely through electric forces in their ionospheres and such an electric wind must be considered when studying the evolution and potential habitability of any planet in any star system.
Document ID
20170002769
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Authors
Collinson, Glyn A. (Catholic Univ. of America Washington, DC, United States)
Frahm, Rudy A. (Southwest Research Inst. San Antonio, TX, United States)
Glocer, Alex (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Coates, Andrew J. (University Coll. London, United Kingdom)
Grebowsky, Joseph M. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Barabash, Stas (Swedish Inst. of Space Physics Kiruna, Sweden)
Domagal-Goldman, Shawn D. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Federov, Andrei (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie (UMR) Toulouse, France)
Futaana, Yoshifumi (Swedish Inst. of Space Physics Kiruna, Sweden)
Gilbert, Lin K. (University Coll. London, United Kingdom)
Khazanov, George (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Moore, Thomas E. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Date Acquired
March 31, 2017
Publication Date
June 20, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Geophysical Research Letters
Volume: 43
Issue: 12
ISSN: 0094-8276
Subject Category
Geophysics
Report/Patent Number
GSFC-E-DAA-TN40916
Funding Number(s)
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNX15A176G
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNG11PL10A
CONTRACT_GRANT: NASW-00003
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other