We all know that lightning exists on Earth (and it’s fascinating), but did you know it also exists on Jupiter? We haven’t seen it in NASA’s photos so far, but JunoCam has recently made an incredible observation near Jupiter’s north pole – a green bolt of lightning.
On our home planet, lightning bolts usually come from water clouds and occur most frequently near the equator. However, it’s very different with “the gas giant.” Scientists believe Jupiter’s lightning bolts originate from clouds containing an ammonia-water solution. Also, they most frequently occur near the poles rather than the equator.
Juno captured this particular view of a swirling vortex and the accompanying lightning during its 31st close flyby of Jupiter on December 30, 2020. The raw image data was skillfully processed by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill in 2022. When the raw image was taken, Juno was positioned approximately 19,900 miles (32,000 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. It was at a latitude of about 78 degrees as it approached the planet, preparing to unveil the secrets hidden beneath its enigmatic surface.
Juno has been exploring the mysteries of Jupiter for over a decade. It has brought us plenty of stunning images of Jupiter and its moons, Io, Ganymede, and Europa. In the following months, Juno is set to venture even closer to the planet in its upcoming orbits. As it passes over Jupiter’s night side, it will provide even more opportunities for Juno’s suite of science instruments to witness lightning in action. So, let’s keep our eyes on the upcoming Juno missions and the amazing photos we’re yet to see!
[via Space.com; image credits: data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; image processing by Kevin M. Gill]