NASA has just announced that the Juno spacecraft has once again noticed the “Superbolts” of lightning in Jupiter’s atmosphere. And while lightning prevention in the jumbo plan is not new, the latest observations can help to answer some big questions. Big questions like: Why is there such a fun distribution of ammonia in the Gas Giant environment?
With an announcement coming Science News, NASA outlines recent Jovian-lightning observations, collected by Juno. Juno is an NASA space investigation that orbits Jupiter, collecting data and crashing images like them.
“Juno’s nearby flybys of clouds in the clouds allow us to see something surprising ̵1; smaller, heavier flashes [of lightning] – came from higher places in Jupiter’s environment than previously assumed, “said Heidi Becker, Juno’s Runoation Monitoring Investigation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Becker is the lead author of a recent study based on Juno discovered published in Nature.
For these magnificent lightning bolts – up to 1,000 times as strong as Earth’s lightning – to occur at higher altitudes, there must be a way to keep the water in its liquid state. And there is ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, entering the picture.
Unlike Earth’s weather system, which is water driven, Jupiter’s is driven by both water and ammonia. Due to all the ammonia in Jupiter’s environment, water can reach higher ground before freezing. This, in turn, allows for the formation of high-altitude superbolts, despite ambient temperatures of -126 ° F.
“At these points, ammonia acts like an antifreeze, which lowers the melting point of the ice water and allows the formation of a cloud of ammonia-water,” Becker said in a NASA statement. “In this new state, falling drops of ammonia-water can collide with rising ice-water crystals and electricity clouds,” he added.
But this theory not only explains how superbolts form. It also explains why Juno found the “pocket of missing ammonia” in Jupiter’s environment. This is because Becker and his colleagues suggest that rain will form in the same high numbers of superbolts, and subsequently return to the lower atmosphere. Ammonia, in turn, was captured on ice – described by Becker’s “Windex snow cones” – where Juno’s sensors could not see it.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / CNRS
“[L]anything on Jupiter does not happen in the same way as it does on Earth, ”Becker said in the video above. He added that this type of lightning “is very strange and strange than what we have here on Earth and that is what is most exciting to me.”
What do you think about these magnificent lightning flashes around Jupiter? And why does “Windex snow cone” sound like it could be a real thing in 2020? Power us your thoughts on the comments, people!
Feature Photo: Paul Anglada