Science

The mystery of the sulfur clouds of Venus can reveal a new computer model

Scientists using new computational methods have come to new insights into the potential workings of Venus’ complex atmosphere.

Venus is shrouded in thick clouds, consisting mainly of sulfuric acid. These clouds reflect most of the sunlight that hits the planet, making it the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon. However, spacecraft and ground-based observations have also detected an unknown absorber of ultraviolet light present in the atmosphere.

A team of scientists now proposes, after using sophisticated computer simulations, a new way to create dissera — an allotrope of sulfur made up of two sulfur atoms — in the clouds of Venus.

On the subject: 10 strangest facts about Venus

Disser leads to the formation of other allotropes of sulfur and, subsequently, cyclic or ring molecules of eight sulfur atoms in the atmosphere of Venus. These sulfur particles can absorb UV radiation.

The team hypothesizes that sulfur dioxide (SO2), broken down by sunlight to form sulfur monoxide (SO) and sulfur dioxide (S2O), provides a much faster route to disulfur formation than combining single sulfur atoms.

In this context, it is very useful to use computational methods, since working with chemicals and compounds found in the atmosphere of Venus, including sulfur, chlorine and oxygen, can be difficult and sometimes dangerous.

“For the first time, we are using computational chemistry methods to determine which reactions are most important, rather than waiting for laboratory measurements or using highly inaccurate estimates of the rates of unexplored reactions,” James Lyons, Senior Scientist, Institute of Planetary Science. and the author of the article, the press statement said. (will open in a new tab).

“This is a new and much needed approach to studying the atmosphere of Venus,” Lyons added.

While there is as yet no consensus on the identity of the scavenger, it is highly likely that sulfur chemistry is involved. It has been suggested that the triatomic and tetraatomic allotropes of sulfur, the latter also formed from disulfur, are a mysterious absorber of UV radiation.

The team, which also includes scientists from the University of Valencia and the Rocasolano Institute of Physical Chemistry in Madrid, Spain, and the University of Pennsylvania, argue that computational models or “ab initio chemistry” used to determine possible reactions could also open the door to using an approach. to learn more about the complex chemistry of Venus.

Article published in Nature Communications. (will open in a new tab).

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