The renowned Jovian lightning has always been a fascination for scientists, who have been dead-curious of its nature. While at first the phenomenon seemed strikingly different than what we see on Earth, more recent observations proved the contrary. The recent findings of the Juno mission have showed these lightnings actually have a lot in common with thunderstorms on Earth.
Researchers couldn’t pick up radio signals from Jovian lightning
For many centuries, scientists have been assuming thunderstorms occurred on Jupiter, so they nicknamed the phenomena Jovian lightning. Their findings were proven true by the Voyager 1 mission in 1979. However, the first impression was that this lightning didn’t resemble the one on Earth at all.
Meanwhile, other spacecrafts and missions went to explore the Solar System, bringing remarkable findings. Juno is one of them, which came with an entirely new perspective on Jupiter. It discovered that Jovian lightning is actually really similar to what we can see here on Earth. Apparently, lightnings on all planets transmit radio waves across the sky.
Before the Juno mission, researchers couldn’t pick up any radio waves coming from Jupiter. They were only able to see this Jovian lightning, and the radio signals they picked up were on a kilohertz scale. For them to be like those on Earth, they needed to be on a megahertz scale.
Lightning on Earth and on Jupiter display all kinds of similarities
However, Juno got close enough to the planet for its equipment to pick up all kinds of signals. During the first encounter between the spacecraft and Jupiter, the former faced 377 electrical discharges. All of them exhibited signals on a megahertz scale, proving Jovian lightning is just like the one on Earth.
The lightnings on the two planets weren’t only alike. Researchers also discovered Jovian lightning occurred at similar rates to Earth thunderstorms. This way, they produced the biggest database of radio signals picked up from lightnings on the gas giant. However, the two phenomena aren’t entirely identical. They still sport some differences given by the way heat is distributed on the planets.
The study on Jovian lightning was published in the journal Nature.
Image source: NASA