Mystery of Jupiter's Lightning --Solved by Juno Spacecraft: "Polar Opposite of Earth's"

A 2017 file image from NASA shows the planet Jupiter when it was at a distance of about 415 million miles from Earth.  via AP File

This had always been hypothesised - and when Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter in March 1979, the space probe confirmed it, with follow-up observations made by Voyager 2, Galileo and Cassini. That encounter confirmed the existence of the lightning, which had been theorized for years. Previous studies suggested the lightning-associated radio signals didn't match the details of the radio signals produced by lightning here at Earth.

Lightning bolts in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere have long puzzled scientists because they did not appear to generate the same high-energy radio emissions that accompany discharges in Earth's atmosphere. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / JunoCam.

"But until Juno, all the lightning signals recorded by several NASA spacecraft were limited to either visual detections or from the kilohertz range of the radio spectrum, despite a search for signals in the megahertz range. Many theories were offered up to explain it, but no one theory could ever get traction as the answer". It records emissions coming from Jupiter and reads it across a wide spectrum of frequencies.

"They were recorded in the megahertz as well as gigahertz range [of the radio spectrum], which is what you can find with terrestrial lightning emissions", Brown added.

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Recently the NASA's Juno mission scientists establish a resemblance between the Jupiter's storm and the one that occurs on the Earth. Our equator receives a much larger slice of this energy than the rest of the planet (that's why it's the hottest bit), meaning air masses above the equator have a lot of energy at their disposal to move around through convection. 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.

The overwhelming majority of heat on Earth comes from the Sun. At the poles of the planet warm gases rise freely, whereby the storm. The gas giant is much farther from the Sun and its poles aren't getting warmed, therefore having a less stable atmosphere. Unlike on Earth, lightning on Jupiter only seems to occur at high latitudes and is concentrated exclusively around the planet's poles.

The poles don't experience this stabilising radiation, so warm gases from the planet's interior can rise to the upper atmosphere.

But the findings did reveal something important about Jupiter's atmospheric composition and circulation. But another question looms, she said. Having said that, there is a stark difference in where lightning strikes on Earth when compared to Jupiter.

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This discovery was backed up in the second article, published by a team of scientists of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, which presented the most famous record collection of lightning with a giant planet.

Juno has been returning stunning close-up pictures of Jupiter since the probe first arrived at the doorstep of the gassy planet on July 4, 2016, Gizmodo reported. In another paper related to the findings from Juno, the researchers noted that the spacecraft's Waves instrument detected six times more lightning than Voyager, with as many as four lightning strikes per second, just like the rate observed on Earth.

"No matter what planet you're on, lightning bolts act like radio transmitters - sending out radio waves when they flash across a sky".

Shannon Brown et al. This is much higher than Voyager previously detected and similar to rates found on Earth.

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Ivana Kolmašová et al.

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