A stringent upper limit of 20 pptv for methane on Mars and constraints on its dispersion outside Gale crater
Astronomy and Astrophysics EDP Sciences 650 (2021) A140
Abstract:Context. Reports on the detection of methane in the Martian atmosphere have motivated numerous studies aiming to confirm or explain its presence on a planet where it might imply a biogenic or more likely a geophysical origin.
Aims. Our intent is to complement and improve on the previously reported detection attempts by the Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS) on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). This latter study reported the results of a campaign that was a few months in length, and was significantly hindered by a dusty period that impaired detection performances.
Methods. We unveil 640 solar occultation measurements gathering 1.44 Martian years worth of data produced by the ACS.
Results. No methane was detected. Probing the clear northern summer season allowed us to reach 1σ upper limits of around 10 pptv (20 pptv at 2σ), with an annual mean of the smallest upper limits of 20 pptv. Upper limits are controlled by the amount of dust in the atmosphere, which impairs detection performance around the equator and during the southern spring and summer seasons. Observations performed near Gale crater yielded 1σ upper limits of up to four times less than the background values measured by the Curiosity rover during the corresponding seasons.
Conclusions. Reconciliation of the absence of methane in the TGO spectra with the positive detections by Curiosity is even more difficult in light of this annual survey performed by ACS. Stronger constraints are placed on the physical and chemical mechanism capable of explaining why the mean of the best overall upper limits of ACS is ten times below the smallest methane abundances measured by Curiosity.
No evidence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus from independent analyses
Nature Astronomy Springer Nature 5:7 (2021) 631-635
Instrumental requirements for the study of Venus’ cloud top using the UV imaging spectrometer VeSUV
Advances in Space Research (2021)
Abstract:Ultraviolet spectral imaging has been a powerful tool to investigate the cloud top of Venus, allowing for measurement of several minor gases (especially SO , SO, O ), of cloud top aerosol's microphysical properties and of atmospheric dynamics through tracking of the unevenly distributed UV absorber. After a brief review of recent UV instruments that orbited around Venus, we present the results of a state-of-the-art radiative transfer model from Marcq et al. (2020) to derive the spectral resolution and Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) required to derive abundances of these gases, retrieve optical properties of the aerosols beyond our current knowledge. This leads us to propose a two-channel UV hyperspectral push-broom imager called VeSUV (standing for Venusian Spectroscopy in UV) whose technical characteristics will improve on existing measurements by a factor of at least 2, and which is well suited to the integration into the payload of future low Venus orbit platforms such as the proposed EnVision mission to ESA M5 call. 2 3
Isotopic fractionation of water and its photolytic products in the atmosphere of Mars
Nature Astronomy Springer Nature 5:9 (2021) 943-950
Abstract:The current Martian atmosphere is about five times more enriched in deuterium than Earth’s, providing direct testimony that Mars hosted vastly more water in its early youth than nowadays. Estimates of the total amount of water lost to space from the current mean D/H value depend on a rigorous appraisal of the relative escape between deuterated and non-deuterated water. Isotopic fractionation of D/H between the lower and the upper atmospheres of Mars has been assumed to be controlled by water condensation and photolysis, although their respective roles in influencing the proportions of atomic D and H populations have remained speculative. Here we report HDO and H2O profiles observed by the Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter) in orbit around Mars that, once combined with expected photolysis rates, reveal the prevalence of the perihelion season for the formation of atomic H and D at altitudes relevant for escape. In addition, while condensation-induced fractionation is the main driver of variations of D/H in water vapour, the differential photolysis of HDO and H2O is a more important factor in determining the isotopic composition of the dissociation products.
Venus: key to understanding the evolution of terrestrial planets
Experimental Astronomy Springer Science and Business Media LLC (2021)