Jupiter's Lightning Is the Polar Opposite of Earth's

An artist's impression of the lightning storms on Jupiter. Pic NASA  JPL

Juno is tasked with making Jupiter easier to understand for the bipedal creatures on the third planet from the Sun. The image is based on a JunoCam image.

This surprising discovery shows us that Jupiter's lightning strikes are actually similar to our planet's. "Many theories were offered up to explain it, but no one theory could ever get traction as the answer". Juno's final science orbit was supposed to be much less elliptical, with close flybys taking place every 14 days, but an issue with a thruster valve nixed that plan. These sensitive instruments were helpful in recording the gas giant emissions.

On Jupiter, lightning is clustered in the polar regions - it's "inside-out" relative to Earth, Brown said.

"They were recorded in the megahertz as well as gigahertz range, which is what you can find with terrestrial lightning emissions", said Brown.

Still, we must keep in mind that a significant difference between Earth's lightning and Jupiter's remains. "You can ask anybody who lives in the tropics-this doesn't hold true for our planet", Mr Brown added. On Earth, lightning bolts congregate near the equator, but in the Jovian environment, the same happens closer to the poles, more so in the northern hemisphere. And unlike Earth, the majority of its heat is derived from within. The sun's rays that warm our own planet hit the equator first, and it is the warm, humid air rising at this band that drives its lightning. However, the team explains, that tiny quantity of heat it does receive from the Sun does heat up its equator more than the poles. It brought to light many new facts associated with the huge gas world including- the red spot's depth, the 3D imagery of gas underneath the surface of the planet, and the functionality of Jupiter's auroras.

An artist's impression of lightning bolts in the atmosphere if Jupiter. But another question looms. "We can't explain why we see almost twice the amount of lightning in the Northern Hemisphere of Jupiter than we do in the Southern Hemisphere", Brown said. Researchers analysed more than 1,600 "whistlers"-emissions linked to the phenomena-captured by Juno in a Nature Astronomy paper also published Wednesday". Well, long before we had Juno orbiting Jupiter, scientists were able to record the lightning on this planet only within the kilohertz range.

Juno detected peak rates of four lightning strikes per second (similar to the rates observed in thunderstorms on Earth) which is six times higher than the peak values detected by Voyager 1.

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"This is great news for planetary exploration as well as for the Juno team", said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

Trapped in a 53-day orbit, the Juno mission was hampered because the spacecraft is in a very eccentric trajectory that allows it to pass under Jupiter's deadly radiation belts to make observations of the cloud tops at a closer distance than any previous mission. When lightning strikes, it acts like a radio transmitter, blasting radio waves with each strike, according to NASA.

Shannon Brown et al.

Also, the second study on thunderstorms of Jupiter confirms the findings of the first one.

Ivana Kolmašová et al.

But there was something weird about them, compared to our Earth lightning.

This article is based on text provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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