For over 39 years, scientists have tried to decipher the mystery about Jupiter’s lightning. Now, after almost four decades, thanks to findings collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers might have received their long-awaited answers. This surprising discovery shows us that Jupiter’s lightning strikes are actually similar to our planet’s. While lightning on Earth is more frequent around the equator, the gas giant’s lightning can be observed in its polar regions.
The first time we were able to take a glimpse at the planet’s lightning was in March 1979, when it was recorded by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft. However, back then, Jupiter’s lightning strikes seemed to be quite different than the thunderstorms we have on our planet.
Now back to our days, according to a new study published in the journal Nature, it was revealed that the giant planet’s lightning is more similar to Earth’s than it was thought before. Obviously, this wouldn’t have been possible without the probe taken by NASA’s Juno.
Why is this spacecraft so important? Well, long before we had Juno orbiting Jupiter, scientists were able to record the lightning on this planet only within the kilohertz range. But this time, according to Shannon Brown, a lead author on the paper, these lightning strikes were able to be recorded in the megahertz range, which is the same we use to measure the radio waves from the lightning experienced on Earth.
The reason why this has happened is because the spacecraft is now flying closer to the lightning than it has ever done before. Based on this, the team of scientists published another paper in Nature.
Still, we must keep in mind that a significant difference between Earth’s lightning and Jupiter’s remains. As we have mentioned before, lightning storms on our planet are gathering around the equator, in the tropical regions, due to the moisture that is rising through the atmosphere. This, in turn, is what causes lightning fueled by thunderstorms. However, on Jupiter, lightning is clustered in the polar regions. The gas giant is much farther from the Sun and its poles aren’t getting warmed, therefore having a less stable atmosphere. And according to NASA, this is exactly what allows lightning to be produced.
It also seems that NASA is going to extend Juno’s mission until July 2021, much to the excitement of the scientists.
Karen and her husband live on a plot of land in British Columbia. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. They are also currently planning a move to a small cabin they hand built. Karen’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Thus sprung Anna’s interest in backyard gardening, chicken and goat keeping, recycling and self-sufficiency.