Under the dark clouds of ammonia that cover Jupiter are clouds that are made of water, just like the clouds on Earth. Lightning often strikes within these clouds, just like it does on Earth. This strange sight has been seen by many satellites that have visited our solar system’s largest planet, including NASA’s Juno probe.
Scientists say that new information from Juno shows that the way lightning works on Jupiter is similar to how it works on Earth, even though the two worlds are very different.
The Earth is a small, hard world. Jupiter is named after an old Roman god who threw lightning bolts. It is a gas giant so big that all the other planets in our solar system, including more than 1,300 Earths, could fit inside it.
Using five years of high-resolution data collected by Juno’s radio receiver as the probe orbits Jupiter, the researchers found that the processes that start lightning on Jupiter have the same pulse rate as clouds on Earth. The pulses that looked like lightning flashes on Jupiter started about a millisecond apart, just like clouds do on Earth.
Lightning is the most powerful source of electricity that comes from nature.
“Lightning is a spark of electricity that starts in thunderclouds. Ivana Kolmasova, a planetary scientist at the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Prague and the lead author of a study published this week in the journal Nature Communications said that collisions between ice and water particles inside the cloud give them electric charges and make layers of charged particles with the same polarity.”
“By doing this, a big electric field is made, and the release can start. Scientists still don’t know everything about what happens inside thunderclouds, so this answer is a bit simplified,” Kolmasova said.
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In 1979, as NASA’s Voyager 1 probe traveled through the solar system, it picked up telltale radio emissions at audible frequencies. These emissions proved that there was lightning on Jupiter.
Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, which are also made of gas, have also been shown to have lightning. There are some signs that lightning strikes in the clouds of the hard planet Venus, but this is still up for discussion.
Other studies have found other ways that Jupiter’s and Earth’s lightning are similar. For example, the number of lightning strikes on Earth and Jupiter is about the same, but the way lightning strikes on Jupiter is different from Earth.
“The most interesting places on Earth are in the tropics. Most of the lightning on Jupiter happens in the middle latitudes and at the poles. Near the poles of the Earth, lightning is almost never seen.” Kolmasova said, “This means that the conditions for making thunderclouds on Jupiter and on Earth are probably very different.”
“There were some attempts to compare the power of lightning based on optical measurements, and it was decided that lightning on Jupiter might be similar to the strongest lightning on Earth,” Kolmasova said, adding that more research is planned.
Most of Jupiter is made up of hydrogen and helium, with small amounts of other gases. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and is about 88,850 miles (143,000 km) across. Most of its colors come from stripes and a few storms.
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Since 2016, Juno has been going around Jupiter to learn about its atmosphere, inner structure, internal magnetic field, and the area around it that is made by its internal magnetism.
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