NASA: Jupiter’s rays resemble Earth’s – 05/25/2023 – Science

NASA: Jupiter’s rays resemble Earth’s – 05/25/2023 – Science

Hidden beneath the brownish ammonia clouds that blanket Jupiter are clouds that, like Earth, are made of water. And, as on Earth, lightning is usually generated within these clouds — an otherworldly sight observed by several spacecraft that have visited our solar system’s largest planet, including NASA’s Juno probe, the United States space agency.

The data obtained by Juno is providing new information about how lightning processes on Jupiter are similar to those on Earth, despite the drastic differences between the two planets, according to the scientists.

Earth is a relatively small rocky world. Jupiter, whose namesake, the ancient Roman god, hurled lightning, is a gas giant so immense that every other planet in our solar system could fit neatly inside it — including more than 1,300 Earths.

Leveraging five years of high-resolution data acquired by Juno’s radio receiver as the spacecraft orbits Jupiter, researchers have discovered that the planet’s ray-initiating processes pulsate at a similar rate to that observed inside our planet’s clouds. The pulsations seen on Jupiter like lightning started with time differences of about a millisecond, similar to thunderstorms on Earth.

Lightning is the most powerful natural electrical source on Earth.

“Lightning is an electrical discharge that starts inside storm clouds. The ice and water particles inside the cloud are charged by collisions and form layers of charged particles of the same polarity”, said planetary scientist Ivana Kolmasova, from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Prague, of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and lead author of the study published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

“Through this process, a huge electric field is established and discharge can be initiated. This explanation is somewhat simplified because scientists are still not sure what exactly happens inside storm clouds,” added Kolmasova.

The existence of lightning on Jupiter was confirmed when radio emissions at audible frequencies were recorded in 1979 by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft as it ventured through the solar system.

The other gaseous planets in the solar system—Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—have also been shown to have lightning. There is some evidence of lightning in clouds on the rocky planet Venus, although this is still a matter of debate.

Other studies have detailed other similarities in lightning processes on Jupiter and Earth. For example, the lightning rates on the two planets are similar, although the lightning distribution on Jupiter is different from Earth’s.

“On Earth, the tropical regions are the most active. Most Jovian lightning occurs in mid-latitudes and also in the polar regions. We have almost no lightning activity near the Earth’s poles. This means that the conditions for the formation of Jovian clouds Jovian and terrestrial thunder are probably very different,” said Kolmasova.

“There have been some attempts to compare the power of lightning based on optical measurements, and it has been concluded that lightning on Jupiter can be comparable to the strongest terrestrial lightning,” added Kolmasova, noting that more analysis will be carried out.

Jupiter is composed mostly 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, with a diameter of about 143,000 km.

Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, obtaining information about its atmosphere, internal structure, internal magnetic field and the region around it created by internal magnetism.

Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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