Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Whistler mode bursts in the Venus ionosphere due to lightning: Statistical properties using Venus Express magnetometer observations



[1] The Venus Express mission has completed over four years in polar orbit about Venus with periapsis altitudes as low as 180 km. On each orbit around periapsis the fluxgate magnetometer samples the magnetic field at 128 Hz. The data reveal short-lived bursts with peak-to-peak amplitudes up to 1.5 nT in the frequency range 42 to 60 Hz. These signals are whistler mode waves with burst durations of about 100 ms and Poynting vectors similar to terrestrial whistler mode signals generated by atmospheric lightning when detected in the ionosphere. We have examined the occurrence of these bursts as a function of background magnetic field strength, altitude, latitude and local time. The burst rates are highest for magnetic fields of 15–30 nT, at altitudes near 215 km, and at local times near the terminators. The characteristics of these signals are consistent with generation in the dynamic Venus atmosphere, entry into the ionosphere, propagation along the ionospheric magnetic field, and ultimately damping in the ionospheric plasma.