Jupiter Lightning Storms Are More Similar To Earth's Than Previously Thought

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That encounter confirmed the existence of Jovian lightning, which had been theorized for centuries.

NASA's Juno spacecraft will continue studying Jupiter for another three years. In spite of the fact that, in some ways, the two kinds of lightning are polar opposites.

But when the spacecraft set past Jupiter, the data showed radio signals showing the lightning at Jupiter did not match the details of Earth's lightning.

Brown explained how all the previous probes - Voyagers 1 and 2, Galileo and even Cassini recorded lightning signals, but they 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 tried to explain the phenomenon, but none of them could ever visualize traction as the answer.

In a release by NASA, the agency explains how Juno, which is right now orbiting the gas giant is using one of its sensitive instruments - Microwave Radiometer Instrument (MWR).

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As to why lightning on Jupiter is concentrated near its poles and not at the equator, NASA says that it simply follows heat.

The first time you approach the planet, the spacecraft has recorded 377 of the lightning discharges, such as those that occur on Earth.

Juno is unraveling Jupiter's mysteries.

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.

"Jupiter lightning distribution is inside out relative to Earth", said Brown. 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. "You can ask anybody who lives in the tropics-this doesn't hold true for our planet", Mr Brown added. And unlike Earth, the majority of its heat is derived from within.

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This causes warm most air to rise most freely at the equator, powering huge lightning storms. Although Jupiter gets its heat internally from within itself, solar radiation can't be absolutely ruled out as insignificant as Jupiter's equator maintains its heat through the sun rays, just like on Earth. More frequent Jovian lightning at the poles indicates that water-laden gas in the atmosphere circulates towards the poles.

Although Jupiter's equator is also warmer than its poles, scientists believe that it's down the stability of the atmosphere. The poles, which don't have this upper-level warmth and thus no atmospheric stability, enable warm gases from Jupiter's inside to rise, driving convection and hence making the elements for lightning. But another question looms, she said.

An artist's impression of lightning bolts in the atmosphere if Jupiter. The dataset of in excess of 1,600 signs, gathered by Juno's Waves instrument, is right around 10 times the number recorded by Voyager 1. And they detected peak rates of four lightning strikes per second, similar to rates observed in Earth thunderstorms.

"To really understand Jupiter, you need to map it", said Scott Bolton, principal investigator and associate vice president at the Southwest Research Institute.

It also seems that NASA is going to extend Juno's mission until July 2021, much to the excitement of the scientists.

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