Jupiter’s Lightning Is Somehow More and Less Like Earth’s Than Scientists Thought

Jun 6, 2018

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum

As unearthly as it may be, Jupiter shares a phenomenon with our own planet that you might find very familiar: lightning strikes. And lightning on Jupiter is somehow both more (and less) like the lightning on Earth than scientists previously thought.

Every spacecraft to have visited Jupiter, as far back as Voyager in 1979, has spotted flashes of lightning. So it makes sense that the Juno orbiter, which arrived at the gas giant in 2016, would spot it, too. Some newly published results greatly expand our knowledge of these Jovian lightning strikes.

“We succeeded in collecting the largest set of lightning detections known up to now,” study author Ivana Kolmašová from the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague told Gizmodo.

Voyager scientists first discovered lightning on Jupiter in the form of radio waves they generated called “whistlers.” When played as audio, they have a slowly descending whistling pitch that sounds like a bomb falling, distortions caused by their passing through the planet’s plasma.

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