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Science And Nature

A mystery of sulfur clouds of Venus could be solved by new computer model

The day side of Venus covered in clouds as seen by Akatsuki

Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft shows the beautiful day side of Venus in this image. A fresh study has found clues into how sulfur clouds form on earth.(Image credit: JAXA)

Scientists using new computational methods attended up with a fresh insight in to the potential workings of the complex atmosphere of Venus.

Venus is shrouded in thick clouds composed mostly of sulfuric acid. These clouds reflect the majority of the sunlight shining on earth, rendering it the brightest object in the sky after sunlight and moon. However, spacecraft and Earth-based observations also have detected an unknown absorber of ultraviolet light within the atmosphere.

A team of scientists now suggest, following a usage of sophisticated computational modeling, a fresh pathway for creating disulfur an allotrope of sulfur comprising two sulfur atoms within the clouds of Venus.

Related: The 10 weirdest factual statements about Venus

Disulfur results in the forming of other sulfur allotropes and, subsequently, cyclic, or ring-structured, molecules of eight sulfur atoms within the Venusian atmosphere. These sulfur particles can absorb UV light.

The team proposes that sulfur dioxide (SO2), divided by sunlight to create sulfur monoxide (SO) and disulfur monoxide (S2O), offers a considerably faster pathway to forming disulfur compared to the combining of separate sulfur atoms.

Using computational methods is quite useful in this context, as dealing with chemicals and compounds within the Venusian atmosphere, including sulfur, chlorine and oxygen could be difficult and sometimes dangerous.

For the very first time, we have been using computational chemistry ways to determine which reactions are most significant, rather than looking forward to laboratory measurements to be achieved or using highly inaccurate estimates of the rate of unstudied reactions, James Lyons, Planetary Science Institute senior scientist and an writer of the paper, said in a press statement (opens in new tab).

“It is a new and incredibly essential approach for studying the atmosphere of Venus,” Lyons added.

Since there is no consensus yet on the identity of the absorber, it’s thought more than likely that sulfur chemistry is involved. Triatomic and tetratomic allotropes of sulfur, the latter also forming from disulfur, have already been proposed to function as mysterious UV absorber.

The team, also involving scientists from Universitat de Valncia and the Institute of Physical Chemistry Rocasolano in Madrid, Spain, and the University of Pennsylvania, claim computational models, or “ab initio chemistry,” used to find out possible reactions may possibly also open the entranceway to utilizing the approach to find out more about the complex chemistry of Venus.

The paper was published in Nature Communications (opens in new tab).

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Andrew Jones

Andrewis a freelance space journalist with a concentrate on reporting on China’s rapidly growing space sector. He began writingfor in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist among others.Andrewfirst caught the area bug when, as a young child,hesaw Voyager images of other worlds inside our solar system for the firsttime.From space,Andrewenjoys trail running in the forests of Finland.It is possible to follow him on Twitter@AJ_FI (opens in new tab).

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