Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt
NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently gathering data at Jupiter and it discovered that our solar system’s largest planet is home to “shallow lightning,” or an unexpected form of electrical discharge. This phenomenon originates from clouds containing an ammonia-water solution, whereas lightning on Earth are formed from water clouds. Read more for a video and additional information.
It also found evidence that Jupiter’s violent thunderstorms may form slushy ammonia-rich hailstones called “mushballs,” which essentially pull ammonia as well as water in the upper atmosphere and carry them into the depths of gas giant’s atmosphere. Thunderstorms on Jupiter take place around 28 to 40 miles below the visible clouds, with temperatures that hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Juno’s close flybys of the cloud tops allowed us to see something surprising – smaller, shallower flashes – originating at much higher altitudes in Jupiter’s atmosphere than previously assumed possible,” said Heidi Becker, Juno’s Radiation Monitoring Investigation lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the lead author of the Nature paper.