At present, there are several models involving the surface, atmosphere (and ionosphere), and cloud conditions of the planet Venus which attempt to account for the observed high brightness temperature of 600 degrees Kelvin in the microwave temperature region. None of these models can be definitely accepted or rejected on the basis of presently available data, and it is the goal of the microwave radiometer experiment planned for the Mariner Venus mission to determine which of the proposed models most nearly approximates Venusian conditions. The disc of the planet will be scanned at 4 wavelengths - 4, 8, 13.5 and 19 millimeters - to measure the temperature distribution across the planet. Measurement accuracy is expected to be to within 2 percent. In addition to the study of gross thermal characteristics of surface and atmosphere (or ionosphere), some information regarding the fine-scale thermal variations will be obtained. Since Venus appears to be continuously covered by clouds, it is obvious that only in the microwave region can one be sure of penetrating clear to the solid surface. Because of the absorbing characteristics of the Earth's atmosphere, and because of the relatively poor resolution obtainable in this region of the spectrum, one is forced to utilize the platform afforded by a planetary flyby or orbiter in order to conduct a reliable high resolution study of the planet. To do so from Earth (neglecting terrestrial atmospheric attenuation ) would require colossal radio telescopes.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration