The distribution pattern of lightning strikes on Jupiter is the exact opposite of the distribution pattern found on Earth. In spite of the fact that, in some ways, the two kinds of lightning are polar opposites. But the Juno spacecraft's orbit around the giant planet carries it much closer than earlier probes and its Microwave Radiometer Instrument has, in fact, found megahertz and gigahertz emissions like those seen at Earth. It records emissions coming from Jupiter and reads it across a wide spectrum of frequencies.
This surprising discovery shows us that Jupiter's lightning strikes are actually similar to our planet's. But this time, according to Shannon Brown, a lead author on the paper, these lightning strikes were able to be recorded in the megahertz range, which is the same we use to measure the radio waves from the lightning experienced on Earth. Many theories tried to explain the phenomenon, but none of them could ever visualize traction as the answer.
NASA researchers just published a new paper in Nature that describes how they used data from the Juno probe to solve the mystery of Jupiter's odd lightning, and it reveals that the planet's storms produce flashes that are both very similar and also completely different from lightning on Earth.
NASA says the lightning distribution on Jupiter is "inside out" compared to Earth.
"There is a lot of activity near Jupiter's poles but none near the equator", Brown said. "You can ask anybody who lives in the tropics-this doesn't hold true for our planet", Mr Brown added.
Some of the most interesting findings of the mission are that the planet is riddled with storms the size of Earth and that atmospheric features are unlike anything else encountered in our solar system.
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NASA scientists have determined: in comparison with the Earth, Jupiter receives from the Sun a quarter less heat, the amount allocated to the gas giant's internal heat energy is too high, respectively, near the equator of Jupiter appears radiation balance, which prevents convection. Devoid of this upper-atmosphere warmth, the poles do not have any atmosphere stability, which enables the warm gases from Jupiter's interior to rise, causing convection and consequently, all the elements that induce lightning. But another question looms, she said.
Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere is riddled with storms, so it stands to reason there's lightning there too.
Scientists also measured similar rates of lightning on Jupiter as seen in storms on Earth. The set of over 1,600 signals, was also produced with data gathered from Juno.
"This is great news for planetary exploration as well as for the Juno team", said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Our unique orbit allows our spacecraft to fly closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft in history, so the signal strength of what the planet is radiating out is a thousand times stronger".
"Our microwave and plasma wave instruments are state-of-the-art, allowing us to pick out even weak lightning signals from the cacophony of radio emissions from Jupiter".
The $1.1 billion Juno mission has been extended through at least July 2021, NASA officials announced yesterday (June 6).