NASA’s Juno managed to capture quite the shots! A new collection of colorful, odd-looking bursts of lightning spotted on Jupiter is now available.
The unique phenomena include some jellyfish-shaped “sprites” and glowing discs dubbed “elves.” These occur, too, in our planet’s atmosphere during the most violent thunderstorms.
Here is what you need to know.
Alien Sprites and More Glowing Stuff
Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for quite a while, and capturing pictures of its aurorae in UV is its thing.
A team of researchers recently processed the new batch of images combined with data from four years ago and noticed something fantastic yet peculiar. They discovered a total of 11 short-lived, bright flashes, all with very similar features.
Here, on Earth, these sprites are some long, red tendrils that sometimes trail down from a diffuse halo. They mostly occur when a lightning strike generates a high-altitude “quasi-electrostatic field,” or when it sends some electromagnetic pulses upward. The pulses make some glowing discs, dubbed elves.
On our planet, the elves and sprites are somehow reddish due to their interaction with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere, but things are different on Jupiter. Rohini Giles, a researcher on the Juno team, stated:
“On Jupiter, the upper atmosphere mostly consists of hydrogen, so they would likely appear either blue or pink.”
Unfortunately, Juno can’t tell if lightning strikes triggered these phenomena since its lightning-detecting tool is on the other side of the spacecraft from its ultraviolet imaging device. Snapshots from the two tools are captured at least 10 seconds apart.
However, everything else shows that those 11 outbursts are transient luminous events. They emitted lots of hydrogen, were incredibly short-lived, and happened around 186 miles above Jupiter’s water clouds. So, there was too high to be lightning.
Researchers continue their work, looking for more telltale signs of sprites or elves.
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