September 25, 2023

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NASA spacecraft catches lightning on Jupiter, photo goes viral

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the image from the raw data

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has observed a flash of lightning near Jupiter’s north pole. The space agency has released an image from a mission orbiting Jupiter. The spacecraft captured this image on December 20, 2020, when Juno completed its 31st close flyby of Jupiter.

According to a press release issued by NASAIn the year 2022, citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the image from raw data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam instrument. At the time the initial image was taken, Juno was 19,900 miles (32,000 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 78 degrees as it approached the planet.

Explaining about lightning strikes on Jupiter, NASA said that lightning strikes on Earth originate from water clouds, and they occur most often near the equator, while lightning on Jupiter is also likely to occur in clouds that contain ammonia water solution, and can be seen most often. Often near the poles.

The data obtained by Juno provide new information about how lightning operations on Jupiter are similar to those on Earth despite the huge differences between the two planets, according to scientists.

Lightning is the most powerful naturally occurring electrical source on Earth.

“Lightning is an electric discharge that starts inside thunderclouds. Particles of ice and water inside the cloud are charged by collisions and form layers of particles with the same polar charge,” said planetary scientist Ivana Kolmásová of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Prague, lead author of the study published this week in Nature Communications.

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“Through this process, a huge electric field is created and a discharge can be initiated. This explanation is somewhat simplistic because scientists are still not entirely sure what exactly is going on inside thunderclouds,” she added.

Jupiter is made primarily of hydrogen and helium, with traces of other gases. Stripes and a few storms dominate the colorful appearance of Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun and about 88,850 miles (143,000 km) in diameter.

Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, obtaining information about its atmosphere, internal structure, internal magnetic field, and surrounding area created by its internal magnetism.