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Little or no solar wind enters Venus’ atmosphere at solar minimum


Venus has no significant internal magnetic field1, which allows the solar wind to interact directly with its atmosphere2,3. A field is induced in this interaction, which partially shields the atmosphere, but we have no knowledge of how effective that shield is at solar minimum. (Our current knowledge of the solar wind interaction with Venus is derived from measurements at solar maximum3,4,5,6.) The bow shock is close to the planet, meaning that it is possible that some solar wind could be absorbed by the atmosphere and contribute to the evolution of the atmosphere7,8. Here we report magnetic field measurements from the Venus Express spacecraft3 in the plasma environment surrounding Venus. The bow shock under low solar activity conditions seems to be in the position that would be expected from a complete deflection by a magnetized ionosphere9. Therefore little solar wind enters the Venus ionosphere even at solar minimum.

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Figure 1: Magnetic field measurements during pericentre fly-by.
Figure 2: Bow-shock location and induced magnetopause boundary at Venus.

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The work at Graz is partially supported by the ASAP. The work at TU-Braunschweig is supported by Astrium-EADS. The work in Imperial College is supported by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). The work at UCLA was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The work in Slovakia is supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency. The work in China is supported by the CAS International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams.

Author Contributions T.L.Z. is the principal investigator of the Venus Express magnetic field investigation.

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Correspondence to T. L. Zhang.

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Zhang, T., Delva, M., Baumjohann, W. et al. Little or no solar wind enters Venus’ atmosphere at solar minimum. Nature 450, 654–656 (2007).

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