Lightning Strikes on Jupiter: A Spectacular Capture by NASA’s Juno Mission

by Mateo Gonzalez
4 comments
Jupiter's Lightning

NASA’s Juno mission has achieved a remarkable feat, capturing the phenomenon of a lightning bolt in the vicinity of Jupiter’s north pole. Such a sight is more commonly witnessed on the colossal gas planet than on Earth, where lightning mostly happens near the equator. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

The Juno spacecraft of NASA has snapped a stunning image of a lightning bolt at Jupiter’s north pole. Interestingly, this might have stemmed from clouds made of an ammonia-water solution, unlike Earth’s lightning which is derived from water-based clouds.

As part of the mission, Juno observed a vortex near Jupiter’s north pole glowing from a lightning bolt. On Earth, lightning springs from water clouds and primarily strikes near the equator. In contrast, on Jupiter, lightning might also occur in clouds composed of an ammonia-water solution and is more frequently observed near the poles.

In the forthcoming months, Juno will be skirting close to Jupiter during its orbits. As it traverses the giant planet’s night side, Juno’s scientific instruments will have more chances to witness lightning in action.

The exceptional view was captured during Juno’s 31st close flyby of Jupiter on December 30, 2020. The spacecraft was hovering about 19,900 miles over Jupiter’s cloud tops, approaching the planet at around 78 degrees latitude. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

This image was procured when Juno completed its 31st close flyby of Jupiter on December 30, 2020. The following year, in 2022, citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed this image from the raw data provided by the JunoCam instrument on the spacecraft. The raw image was taken when Juno was approximately 19,900 miles (32,000 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, nearing the planet at a latitude of around 78 degrees.

JunoCam’s raw images are available to the public for viewing and processing into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing.  Additional information about NASA’s citizen science projects can be found at https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience and https://www.nasa.gov/solve/opportunities/citizenscience.

An artist’s concept showcases NASA’s Juno spacecraft above Jupiter’s north pole. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Launched on August 5, 2011, NASA’s Juno mission is a remarkable venture aimed at researching Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet. Juno’s primary objective is to unravel the origin and evolution of Jupiter. The spacecraft is designed to penetrate Jupiter’s dense cloud cover and probe its structure, atmosphere, and magnetic fields. By investigating Jupiter’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere, the mission hopes to shed light on the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system’s formation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Jupiter’s Lightning

What mission captured the image of lightning on Jupiter?

NASA’s Juno mission captured the image of lightning on Jupiter.

Where on Jupiter is the lightning primarily observed?

Lightning on Jupiter is primarily observed near the planet’s poles, a significant difference from Earth where lightning mainly occurs near the equator.

What is the source of Jupiter’s lightning?

Jupiter’s lightning likely originates from clouds containing an ammonia-water solution, which is unlike Earth’s lightning that springs from water-based clouds.

When was the image of Jupiter’s lightning captured?

The image was captured during Juno’s 31st close flyby of Jupiter on December 30, 2020.

What is the primary goal of NASA’s Juno mission?

The primary goal of NASA’s Juno mission is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter by investigating the planet’s structure, atmosphere, magnetic fields, and other fundamental aspects.

Can the public access raw images from JunoCam?

Yes, JunoCam’s raw images are publicly available for viewing and processing into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing.

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4 comments

Mike_NY June 19, 2023 - 12:13 am

Okay, lightning from ammonia-water solution clouds? that’s crazy, wonder what else we’ll find out about the big gas giant…

Reply
AstroEnthusiast85 June 19, 2023 - 1:37 am

Juno Mission’s work is just… outstanding. we are getting to see so much from a planet thats billions of miles away!

Reply
SarahW June 19, 2023 - 5:10 am

wow! never knew jupiter had lightning too. this is seriously mindblowing.

Reply
JohnDoe101 June 19, 2023 - 6:50 pm

kudos to the Juno team and Kevin M. Gill for the amazing imagery. Looking at this kinda stuff, really makes you appreciate the universe.

Reply

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