Lightning on Jupiter was detected by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1979, a new study says that lightning strikes on the gas giant are similar to those on Earth. Spacecraft — including Juno, which has been in Jupiter's orbit since 2016 — studying the gas giant discovered the presence of lightning.

Scientists believed that lightning would be different on Jupiter.

Lightning On Jupiter

Researchers from NASA's Juno mission published a new study in the journal Nature showing the similarities between lightning on Earth and Jupiter. They also found that lightning on Jupiter could also be the total opposite in different aspects. Both types of lightning emit radio waves when they flash in the sky.

Before Juno, scientists were unsure if lightning on Jupiter may be significantly weaker than lightning on Earth. Signals captured from the lightning on Jupiter registered in the kilohertz range of the radio spectrum. After Juno was able to get closer to the planet, it was able to detect 377 lightning discharges that made it into the megahertz and gigahertz range.

Lightning on Jupiter does have some differences with lightning on Earth. There is a lot of lightning activity near the poles of the planet, but none at the equator. A large portion of Earth's lightning is concentrated near the equator.

Where Does Lightning Concentrate?

Lightning concentrates in the equator of the Earth due to receiving a large portion of its heat from the Sun. The equator receives a large portion of the solar radiation, which causes warm, moist air that powers thunderstorms that produce lightning. The process is different on Jupiter.

Most of the heat on Jupiter doesn't come from the Sun since it receives 25 times less sunlight than Earth. Heat on Jupiter is mostly derived from itself. Just like on Earth, the warmest part of the planet is near the equator. This warmth creates stability in the upper atmosphere near the equator. The poles don't have atmospheric stability. This lets warm gases from inside of Jupiter to rise into the atmosphere, which creates the ingredients for lightning.

Lightning Frequencies

A second study was published in Nature Astronomy regarding Jupiter's lightning. In the paper, researchers created the largest database of lightning-generated low-frequency radio emissions around Jupiter. It features more than 1,600 signals collected by Juno. It was able to collect four lightning strikes per second, a rate that is similar to Earth.

Juno is able to collect this data by making the closest flyby of any spacecraft in history. Its next fly-by will occur on July 16. This will be its 13th flyby.

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