Jupiter’s Light Show! Lightning “Sprites” Detected By NASA For The First Time

NASA’s Juno spacecraft recently shot images of some peculiar and colorful bursts of lightning-like electricity high in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

About The Phenomenon

The unusual phenomenon that resulted in jellyfish-shaped “sprites” and glowing disks known as “elves” also occurs in our planet’s atmosphere during thunderstorms.

The events were first documented in 1989, when scientists predicted that other planets that present lightning, like Jupiter, can also host transient luminous events.

However, nobody took photographic evidence of alien sprites or elves until recently.

Juno is orbiting Jupiter since four years ago, and it collected images of its aurorae in UV light.

A team of researchers analyzing the snapshots observed something peculiar around Jupiter’s south pole – an extremely brief flash of light.

Rohini Giles, a researcher of the Juno team, noted in a press conference during the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Association’s Division for Planetary Sciences on Tuesday:

“In the process of putting together those images, we noticed that very occasionally we saw these surprising, short-lived, bright flashes. […] We then went and searched through all of the data that we’ve taken over four years of the mission, and we found a total of 11 flashes, all with very similar properties.”

All the events lasted for short fractions of a second.

Giles and her colleagues posted a new study regarding the phenomenon in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets last Tuesday.

The sprites look like long, red tendrils on our planet, sometimes trailing downwards from a diffuse halo.

They take place when a lightning strike generates a high-altitude quasi-electrostatic field, according to Giles.

In other situations, lightning strikes emit electromagnetic bursts upward. The pulses result in glowing disks: elves.

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