Jupiter does not resemble our planet at all, being possibly the farthest away when it comes to similarities. However, it does share one single similarity with the Earth, and that is lightning. Previously, scientists had an idea about how this phenomenon came to be on Jupiter. However, it seems that they were mostly wrong, two new papers which the journal Nature and Nature Astronomy recently published, claim. Back in 1979, the Voyager spacecraft spotted lightning strikes on Jupiter for the first time. More recently, in 2016, the Juno orbiter arrived at the gas giant too.
According to Ivana Kolmašová, the author of these studies, thanks to Juno, the team of scientists managed to collect the largest set of detections so far. The scientists on Voyager initially called the lightning on Jupiter “whistlers”, because they were in the form of radio waves. The name comes from the sound they make when played as audio, which resembles a bomb falling. However, if this type of lightning existed, other spacecrafts should have detected another flash called a sferic. When they didn’t, experts started wondering whether or not the Jupiter lightning was different than ours.
The mystery of the lightning on Jupiter
Answers came thanks to Juno and the Waves plasma and radio wave detector and the Microwave Radiometer. They provided long-sought answers while also posing new questions. The Waves plasma and radio wave detector discovered six times more lightning than the Voyager. However, the Microwave Radiometer saw the sferics that other crafts were unable to detect.
This means, experts say, that the lightning on Jupiter resembles the one here on Earth more than they previously thought. It produces radio emissions that are similar and even occurs as frequently as here on Earth. But there are still mysteries about the lightning on Jupiter, mainly that it occurs closer to the poles than it does here. So, all hopes are now on Juno, which will continue its mission until the 2020s.
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