Thanks to ammonia antifreeze, flashes of light can form

Small, frequent storms move over Jupiter’s cloud cover. NASA’s Juno spacecraft first discovered lightning, nature scientists reported on August 5.

“It’s a very strange thing that doesn’t exist on Earth,” said physicist Heidi Becker of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Previous spacecraft have revealed high-energy “super-volts” on Jupiter. This flash occurs between 50 and 65 kilometers under Jupiter’s cloud cover, where droplets of liquid form. Scientists believe that superstitions form like lightning on Earth: collisions of ice crystals and water droplets accentuate and prolong the charge between them as they separate (SN: 6 / 25/20).

Juno, who arrived on Jupiter in 2016, is closer to the planet’s charcoal blanket than previous missions. Becker and his team opened the spacecraft’s navigation camera, which typically tracks the stars to track Juno’s position, on the night side of Jupiter in February 2018. To the team’s surprise, the clouds Cracked. electricity.
Superbolts are up to 100,000 times more powerful than these tiny lightning bolts. But lightning flashes over cloud cover ten times more often. Funny, the little bolts seem to come just 11 miles under the cloud cover, which is too cold for liquid water alone.

Shallow lightning is expected to have a different origin than deeper lightning, Becker said. Ammonia can act as an antifreeze on the upper decks, together creating drops of ammonia and water. Juno also found that severe storms in the deeper layers of the cloud occasionally threw ice crystals above where they usually were. If these crystals collide with ammonia droplets, they can be charged and generate lightning, Becker, and colleagues explain.

Similar small storms can occur on other planets, including exoplanets, Becker says (SN: 5/13/16). “Whenever you have new research, new theories will pour in not only for our solar system but other solar systems as well.”

 

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