NASA solves the mystery of Jupiter's lightning

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Having said that, there is a stark difference in where lightning strikes on Earth when compared to Jupiter.

On Earth, radio waves associated with lightning are in the megahertz range. Perhaps the spacecraft will be able to find answers for the remaining questions when it swoops over the planet's mysterious cloud tops once more.

According to NASA, this is the largest database of low-frequency radio emissions to ever be recorded from lightning sources on Jupiter.

"Jupiter lightning distribution is inside out relative to Earth".

Artist's concept of lightning in Jupiter's northern hemisphere. Researchers analysed more than 1,600 "whistlers"-emissions linked to the phenomena-captured by Juno in a Nature Astronomy paper also published Wednesday".

Ever since it reached Jupiter, Juno has made eight flybys so far and has recorded 377 lightning discharges, reported NASA. Unlike on Earth, lightning on Jupiter only seems to occur at high latitudes and is concentrated exclusively around the planet's poles.

Why do lightning bolts congregate near the equator on Earth and near the poles on Jupiter?

In a pair of studies published on June 6, scientists from the Juno mission describe the radio emissions coming from Jovian lightning - dubbed "whistlers" on account of their descending whistling pitch, which sounds a lot like a falling bomb - as well as the novel frequencies at which they were picked up by the spacecraft still in orbit around the gas giant.

Now, for the first time, Brown's team has detected atmospheric radio signals from lightning - called sferics - in the megahertz range, and it's thanks to Juno's suite of new and highly sensitive instruments.

But there's one more way lightning on Jupiter is similar to Earth lightning.

These differences can be attributed to the different way heat is distributed across the two planets.

Some of Juno's accomplishments include offering humanity's first up-close view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, stating that the planet's atmosphere has features unlike anything else encountered in the solar system, and that the Great Red Spot storm has been shrinking for years but that as it shrinks it grows taller.

Jupiter, on the other hand, sits much further away from our star and receives far less sunlight. "We think the reason we are the only ones who can see it is because Juno is flying closer to the lighting than ever before, and we are searching at a radio frequency that passes easily through Jupiter's ionosphere".

"These findings could help to improve our understanding of the composition, circulation and energy flows on Jupiter".

Even so, that level of heating still warms the equatorial atmosphere more than the poles, just enough to stabilise the upper altitudes and prevent the rise of warm air that otherwise would trigger convection and storm development. As Jupiter produces lightning through electrical reactions between ice and water droplets, the lightning's location suggests that the water-filled gas in the atmosphere circulates toward the poles. NASA just re-enlisted Juno, adding another 41 months to its mission.

Juno makes most of its observations during its closest approaches to Jupiter, which occur once every 53 days.

"These updated plans for Juno will allow it to complete its primary science goals", said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton.

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