Researchers have solved the mystery of lightning on Jupiter

A 2017 file image from NASA shows the planet Jupiter when it was at a distance of about 415 million miles from Earth.  via AP File

As to why lightning on Jupiter is concentrated near its poles and not at the equator, NASA says that it simply follows heat.

NASA's Juno probe has unraveled the mystery of Jupiter's lightning - a problem that has vexed astronomers for close to four decades.

While the revelation showed how Jupiter lightning is similar to Earth's, the new paper also notes that where these lightning bolts flash on each planet is actually quite different.

This discovery was backed up in the second article, published by a team of scientists of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, which presented the most famous record collection of lightning with a giant planet. Well, long before we had Juno orbiting Jupiter, scientists were able to record the lightning on this planet only within the kilohertz range. These signals have been collected by Juno's Waves instrument, is nearly 10 times more than the number collected by the shuttler Voyager 1.

"Our microwave and plasma wave instruments are state-of-the-art, allowing us to pick out even weak lightning signals from the cacophony of radio emissions from Jupiter".

"We succeeded in collecting the largest set of lightning detections known up to now", Kolmašová told Gizmodo. Its mission managers initially wanted to destroy the orbiter by plunging it into Jupiter's clouds sometime after it concludes its mission in July. Looking at the new Juno data, scientists found that the instance of lightning strikes on Jupiter are six times higher than what Voyager 1 had detected.

The other study, published in the journal Nature, unveiled that lighting on Jupiter produces not only kilohertz emissions, the singular radio range detected by Voyager 1 almost four decades ago, but also gigahertz radio waves, just like lightning on Earth.

"Jupiter lightning distribution is inside out relative to Earth", Shannon Brown of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of a paper published Wednesday in Nature, said in a NASA statement.

Brown revealed that, during Juno's first eight flybys of Jupiter, the spacecraft's Microwave Radiometer instrument picked up 377 lightning blasts, which "were recorded in the megahertz as well as gigahertz range" - the same as "what you can find with terrestrial lightning emissions".

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"As we complete the remainder of the orbits in the mission, we'll get a clearer and clearer picture of the distribution of lightning, which maps out moist convective activity on the planet". Notwithstanding explaining the enigma, the specialists found that the cause of Jupiter's lightning is altogether different from what we're utilized to without anyone else planet. By that point, radiation damage to the craft is expected to be severe and it will be ordered to make a controlled entry into the Jovian atmosphere, where it will burn up. The lightning originates at Jupiter's poles, rather than distributed across its surface, and the researchers attribute that to Jupiter's distance from the Sun.

Kurth also chimed in on the matter, explaining the main difference between lighting strikes on the two planets. It took nearly five years to reach Jupiter after a roundabout route that sent it on a flyby of Earth in 2013 to build up speed to match orbits with Jupiter. "On Earth, thunderstorms tend to cluster around low latitudes, and on Jupiter, it's the other way around". This movement is what fuels the thunderstorms which, in turn, produce lightning.

There also seems to be more lightning in Jupiter's northern hemisphere compared to its southern side.

NASA's Juno spacecraft will maintain its 53-day polar orbit around Jupiter during its continued mission.

"These findings could help to improve our understanding of the composition, circulation and energy flows on Jupiter", said Brown.

Though Jupiter receives 25 times less sunlight than Earth, the Sun's rays do still heat up the gas giant's equator more than the poles.

Even so, that level of heating still warms the equatorial atmosphere more than the poles, just enough to stabilise the upper altitudes and prevent the rise of warm air that otherwise would trigger convection and storm development.

Juno braked into orbit around Jupiter in July 2016.

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