Hidden beneath the brown ammonia clouds covering Jupiter are clouds made of water. As on Earth, lightning is often generated within these clouds, a strange sight observed by many spacecraft that have visited the largest planet in our solar system, including NASA’s Juno probe.
The data obtained by Juno provide new information about how the formation of lightning on Jupiter is similar to that of Earth despite the huge differences between the two planets, according to scientists.
Earth is a relatively small, rocky world, while Jupiter, named after the Roman god of lightning, is a gas giant so massive that all the other planets in our solar system could fit entirely inside it — and it holds more than 1,300 Earths, according to Reuters.
Drawing on five years of high-resolution data obtained by Juno’s radio receiver as it orbited Jupiter, the researchers found that the planet’s lightning initiations pulsate at a similar rhythm to those observed within our planet’s clouds.
The pulses observed on Jupiter began as flashes of lightning with an interval of about milliseconds, similar to thunderstorms on Earth.
The presence of lightning on Jupiter was confirmed when radio emissions were recorded at audible frequencies in 1979 by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft as it ventured through the solar system.
It has also been shown that other gaseous planets in the solar system – Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – also have lightning.
There is some evidence of lightning in the clouds of the rocky planet Venus, although it is still a matter of debate.
Other studies have detailed other similarities in lightning operations on Jupiter and Earth. For example, the rates of lightning occurrence on the two planets are similar, although the geographic distribution of lightning on Jupiter differs from that of Earth.
Jupiter consists mainly of hydrogen and helium, with traces of other gases.
Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, obtaining information about its atmosphere, internal structure, and internal magnetic field.
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