The abundance and vertical distribution of the unknown ultraviolet absorber in the venusian atmosphere from analysis of Venus Monitoring Camera images
Observations of Venus using the ultraviolet filter of the Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) on ESA's Venus Express Spacecraft (VEX) provide the best opportunity for study of the spatial and temporal distribution of the venusian unknown ultraviolet absorber since the Pioneer Venus (PV) mission. We compare the results of two sets of 125 radiative transfer models of the upper atmosphere of Venus to each pixel in a subset of VMC UV channel images. We use a quantitative best fit criterion based upon the notion that the distribution of the unknown absorber should be independent of the illumination and observing geometry. We use the product of the cosines of the incidence and emission angles and search for absorber distributions that are uncorrelated with this geometric parameter, finding that two models can describe the vertical distribution of the unknown absorber. One model is a well-mixed vertical profile above a pressure level of roughly 120 mb (∼63 km). This is consistent with the altitude of photochemical formation of sulfuric acid. The second model describes it as a thin layer of pure UV absorber at a pressure level roughly around 24 mb (∼71 km) and this altitude is consistent with the top of upper cloud deck. We find that the average abundance of unknown absorber in the equatorial region is 0.21 ± 0.04 optical depth and it decreases in the polar region to 0.08 ± 0.05 optical depth at 365 nm.