Jupiter’s Lightings were first discovered in March 1979, this phenomenon was captured by Nasa’s Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was passing by Jupiter while on its mission to explore the outer solar system. Jovian lightings have always intrigued scholars and scientists and many theories have been submitted to explain them.
Although scientists at NASA Juno mission stated that the lightings on Earth and Jupiter are similar in some aspects, despite the fact that on Jupiter they only occur at high latitude areas.
At Earth, this phenomenon takes places at the parts that are near the equator while on Jupiter it occurs in the polar regions of the planet.
Well, the explanation of this variation is different heat levels of heat absorption by both the planets. Earth’s main heat source is Sun and equatorial regions receive maximum sunshine on Earth, this results in cloud formation and thunderstorms by the rising moist and warm air, and this explains the occurrence of such lightings in these regions.
While on Jupiter things are very different, its orbit is nearly five times as compared with Earth’s. The major heat source of Jupiter’s heat source is the planet itself as it only receives only 4 percent sunlight as compared with Earth.
“Jupiter lightning distribution is inside out relative to Earth,” said Brown. “There is a lot of activity near Jupiter’s poles but none near the equator. You can ask anybody who lives in the tropics — this doesn’t hold true for our planet.”
This amount of sunlight received is only enough to stabilize the upper atmosphere at Jupiter’s equator regions. While the polar regions of Jupiter are more unstable, this is due to Jupiter’s internal heat rise creating atmospheric instability in these regions. So, lightings on the polar regions of Jupiter are more common.
“In the data from our first eight flybys, Juno’s MWR detected 377 lightning discharges,” said Brown. “They were recorded in the megahertz as well as gigahertz range, which is what you can find with terrestrial lightning emissions. We think the reason we are the only ones who can see it is because Juno is flying closer to the lighting than ever before, and we are searching at a radio frequency that passes easily through Jupiter’s ionosphere.”
Although scientists at Nasa Juno mission have finally answered the question about the lightning variations, they are still confused about why these lightings occur more at northern poles of Jupiter.
“These findings could help to improve our understanding of the composition, circulation, and energy flows on Jupiter,” said Brown. But another question loom. “Even though we see lightning near both poles, why is it mostly recorded at Jupiter’s north pole?”
- [Source] : i4u