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Study of the variability of trace gases in the atmosphere of Venus in 3D to support EnVision/ESA Mission

Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)
Fecha inicio solicitud: 
Mar, 01/11/2022
Fecha límite solicitud: 
Mié, 25/01/2023


The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers of any nationality to pursue their PhD studies in the best Spanish and Portuguese research centres and units with excellence distinction.

Research Project / Research Group Description

Venus is in the spotlight of the public and scientific community after the selection of 3 missions: DAVINCI+ and VERITAS by NASA, and EnVision by ESA/NASA. It remains an open question how Venus and the Earth started so similar but become so different worlds.  The question “Could our neighbor planet have once hosted an ocean and even sustained life?”, among others, will be synergistically addressed by the three missions.

Our group at IAA-CSIC holds the co-PI ship of one of the instruments on board EnVision, the high spectral resolution spectrograph VenSpec-H, and Co-I ship of the VenSpec suite (VenSpec-U and VenSpec-M). The technological responsibility is providing the power supply modules of VenSpec-H, -U and of the Central Control Unit of the whole instrument.

More specifically, VenSpec-H is designed to monitor the composition of minor species (e.g., H2O, SO2, HDO, CO) in the lower atmosphere during nigh-time and above the cloud on the day side. Large variations are expected, potentially related with geologic (i.e., volcanic) activity, or associated with vertical mixing within the cloud layer. The group has proven experience in developing photochemical models for reducing (Titan, Jupiter, and Uranus) and oxidizing (Mars and Venus) atmospheres as well as 3D simulations. In this line, a photochemical model coupled with a simplified microphysical cloud model for Venus and a General Circulation Model (GCM), developed by our collaborators, successfully reproduce the observed structure of clouds and the H2O and SO2 distribution at cloud tops. However, the origin of the observed vertical mixing ratio fluctuations is barely understood.

The main goal of this project is investigating the atmosphere variability above the cloud tops with 3D model simulations to better understand the processes leading to those variations to be prepared to analyse future observations by VenSpec-H on board the ESA EnVision mission.

Job position description

DAVINCI+ and VERITAS by NASA, and EnVision by ESA/NASA will be launched between 2028 and 2032 and will deliver insights into the geological history of the planet through complementary imagery, polarimetry, radiometry and spectroscopy of the surface coupled with subsurface sounding, gravity mapping and atmospheric observations.

The successful candidate will be involved in EnVision mission, notably he/she will join the international consortium of the high-resolution spectrograph VenSpec-H and VenSpec-U.   She/he will use a sophisticated 3D model for Venus that has being developed since 2010 at LMD/IPSL in France, in the frame of a collaboration between different European institutions, included the IAA-CSIC, to analyze and identify potential physical, chemical, or dynamical processes driving the variability of trace gases above the cloud tops of Venus (70 km altitude, approximately). Heterogenous chemical processes will be implemented and studied.

This theoretical work, the core of the PhD thesis, will enable the science operations and interpretation of the dataset that the VenSpec suite of instruments (VenSpec-H, -U and -M) will deliver. These model developments will also contribute to the improvement of the Venus Climate database (VCD), which contains the meteorological fields derived from the Venus GCM and provides provides to the scientific community a climatology (mean values and variability) for many characteristics of the Venusian atmosphere from the surface to the exosphere, validated against available observations.

Furthermore, the coupling between atmospheric and geologic processes readily needs from a common analysis of the different instruments on board the EnVision ESA/NASA mission and of the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS NASA missions.

Good knowledge of programming languages (as Fortran, python or IDL), good level of English, social capabilities to work in an international environment will be highly considered in the evaluation process.