Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system has never ceased to amaze us. In a recent observation, NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured mysterious green lightning on Jupiter. Scientists were fascinated by this view and they conducted a study to understand the actual cause of the spooky green lighting flash on the largest gas giant in the solar system. Here’s what the researchers think about this strange astronomical occurrence.
What Scientists Think About The Recent Mysterious Green Lighting on Jupiter as Captured by Juno Spacecraft
Scientists recently conducted a study to understand how lightning works on the Jovian system. Based on their research, the team came to understand that lightning works following a similar method on Jupiter as it strikes here on Earth. But unlike lightning on our home planet, lightning on Jupiter usually occurs with about 10,000 times more energy.
The researchers also discovered that the largest gas giant has storm clouds that are turbulent and updrafts that push water droplets upwards alongside downdrafts that force tiny ice particles downward. The team marvels as they realize that the storm of water and ice comes in contact with each other to collision-strip electrons. These strange anomalies turn the storm cloud into a massive battery having a positive charge terminal at its top and a negative charge at its bottom.
Researchers reveal that lightning bolts are ignited as the energy moves in a series of short jumps. These unique jumps follow a zigzag path and not an extended, smooth path. They follow a zigzag path due to the energy eliminated in a lightning bolt’s attempts to move through the simplest path from a negatively charged region to a positively charged area.
Difference Between Lightning on Jupiter and Earth’s Lightning
Astronomers have studied several data from Juno’s Waves instrument in the past and learned that lightning behaves the same way on Jupiter as it does here on Earth. But unlike Earth’s clouds which are mostly made up of water, Jupiter’s clouds are made up of mostly a mixture of water and ammonia.
Aside from the difference in the minerals contained in clouds of both planets, there are also other numerous differences between the two. For example, most lightning strikes on Earth usually occur closer to the Equator. However, lightning on Jupiter mostly occurs in regions where storms are at higher latitudes.
Jupiter, despite being the largest planet in the solar system, also has the largest and most mysterious storm in the solar system. The gas giant’s storm is so massive that it covers about 10,000 miles wide, popularly identified as the Great Red Spot. Scientists discovered this region to be a fascinating part of Jupiter with no lightning but mostly wind.
Why Lightning on Jupiter Remains One Of The Strangest Anomalies Ever Discovered In the Solar System
Scientists have been studying planets with lightning for decades now. And ever since we commenced with these observations, Jupiter was one of the planets to have lightning strikes just like Earth. NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft made this fascinating discovery in 1979 when it spotted the telltale radio signals of lightning strikes in Jupiter’s powerful storms. The spacecraft made this discovery while conducting its flyby around the gas giant.
After Voyager 1 flyby in 1979, other spacecraft have studied lightning on Jupiter in great detail to improve our astronomical knowledge about the gas giant. While several observations have revealed the existence of lightning on Jupiter, newer observations are suggesting that Saturn and Uranus also have lightning strikes. Mars appears not to have lightning because of its extremely thin atmosphere.
However, the Mars Global Surveyor satellite has detected a series of bright flashes in Martian dust storms. This strange anomaly in the Mars dust storm may be lightning or a similar occurrence. However, further observations are needed to verify what truly causes the bright light to flash in the dust storm.
Saturn’s moon, Titan is another great destination in the solar system that has captured the interest of our scientists. However, scientists are yet to discover any lightning on its clouds because of the chemicals that build up its atmosphere. These chemicals may likely not lose electrons in the same way the water molecules do. You can check out the published study here.
Jupiter’s lightning strikes are as fascinating as Earth’s lightning strikes. While the Juno spacecraft has captured one of the most mysterious images of lightning on Jupiter, scientists are working on studying the data provided by the spacecraft to learn more.