- The shot was made by the Juno probe on its 31st flight to the gas giant
NASA’s Juno mission has managed to capture the formation of a lightning bolt in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The view was made in the middle of its 31st flight to the gas planet, at the end of 2020. The North American space agency recently revealed it to the entire world.
The image was achieved thanks to the spacecraft’s JunoCam instrument. This is a visible-light color camera designed to take pictures of Jupiter’s cloud tops. It was included on the spacecraft specifically for public engagement purposes, but has proven important for scientific investigations as well.
At the time the raw image was taken, Juno was about 20,000 miles above Jupiter’s clouds, at a latitude of about 78 degrees as it approached the planet. In 2022, citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the image from raw data from the probe.
The spacecraft has been able to carry out 51 overflights to date, which has made it possible to learn how this phenomenon is formed in conditions very different from those on Earth.
“On Earth, lightning originates from water clouds and occurs most frequently near the equator, while on Jupiter lightning is likely to also occur in clouds containing a solution of ammonia and water, and can be seen with more frequently near the poles,” NASA officials wrote in the image description.
According to a space agency infographic, water vapor mixes with atmospheric ammonia which acts as antifreeze allowing the vapor to rise in strong updrafts some 22 km from the surface. Temperatures there range between 121-150 below zero.