The ionosphere of Venus set free

Today I came by an interesting story: What actually happens if the solar wind is weaker than normal? Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have made a comprehensive story.
In the publication by Wei et. al the ionosphere was directly observed in 2010 to reveal that the ionosphere enters largely into space:

ionosphere of venus under solar wind changes

Left you can see the ionosphere due to a normal solar wind. Right in early august 2010 when the solar wind was almost dying.

The interesting part of it is that the ionosphere enters intergalactic space several hundreds of kilometers. This is astonishing since venus, the third smallest planet in the solar system, has only a diameter of roughly 12,000km – so the extension of the solar wind is huge compared to the planet itself.

This is also the main conclusion from the paper where Wei et al. claim that “[…]our results suggest that the global configuration of Venus’ ionosphere could resemble a teardrop-shaped cometary ionosphere.” So – the absense of the solar wind makes venus look like an ordinary comet!

Venusianer’s are not amused…. 😉

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