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Juno data indicates 'sprites' or 'elves' frolic in Jupiter's atmosphere

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New outcomes from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter recommend that both “sprites” or “elves” could possibly be dancing within the higher environment of the photo voltaic system’s largest planet. It’s the first time these brilliant, unpredictable and very transient flashes of sunshine — formally referred to as transient luminous occasions, or TLE’s — have been noticed on one other world. The findings have been printed on Oct. 27, 2020, within the Journal of Geophysical Analysis: Planets.

Scientists predicted these brilliant, superfast flashes of sunshine also needs to be current in Jupiter’s immense roiling environment, however their existence remained theoretical. Then, in the summertime of 2019, researchers working with information from Juno’s ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS) found one thing surprising: a brilliant, slender streak of ultraviolet emission that disappeared in a flash.

“UVS was designed to characterize Jupiter’s lovely northern and southern lights,” mentioned Giles, a Juno scientist and the lead writer of the paper. “However we found UVS photos that not solely confirmed Jovian aurora, but in addition a brilliant flash of UV gentle over within the nook the place it wasn’t alleged to be. The extra our workforce appeared into it, the extra we realized Juno might have detected a TLE on Jupiter.”

Temporary and Good

Named after a mischievous, quick-witted character in English folklore, sprites are transient luminous occasions triggered by lightning discharges from thunderstorms far under. On Earth, they happen as much as 60 miles (97 kilometers) above intense, towering thunderstorms and brighten a area of the sky tens of miles throughout, but final only some milliseconds (a fraction of the time it takes you to blink a watch).

Virtually resembling a jellyfish, sprites characteristic a central blob of sunshine (on Earth, it is 15 to 30 miles, or 24 to 48 kilometers, throughout), with lengthy tendrils extending each down towards the bottom and upward. Elves (brief for Emission of Mild and Very Low Frequency perturbations on account of Electromagnetic Pulse Sources) seem as a flattened disk glowing in Earth’s higher environment. They, too, brighten the sky for mere milliseconds however can develop bigger than sprites — as much as 200 miles (320 kilometers) throughout on Earth.

Their colours are distinctive as effectively. “On Earth, sprites and elves seem reddish in shade on account of their interplay with nitrogen within the higher environment,” mentioned Giles. “However on Jupiter, the higher environment largely consists of hydrogen, so they’d seemingly seem both blue or pink.”

Location, Location, Location

The prevalence of sprites and elves at Jupiter was predicted by a number of beforehand printed research. Synching with these predictions, the 11 large-scale brilliant occasions Juno’s UVS instrument has detected occurred in a area the place lightning thunderstorms are identified to kind. Juno scientists may additionally rule out that these have been merely mega-bolts of lightning as a result of they have been discovered about 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the altitude the place nearly all of Jupiter’s lightning kinds — its water-cloud layer. And UVS recorded that the spectra of the intense flashes have been dominated by hydrogen emissions.

A rotating, solar-powered spacecraft, Juno, arrived at Jupiter in 2016 after making a five-year journey. Since then, it has made 29 science flybys of the gasoline large, every orbit taking 53 days.

“We’re persevering with to search for extra telltale indicators of elves and sprites each time Juno does a science cross,” mentioned Giles. “Now that we all know what we’re on the lookout for, will probably be simpler to search out them at Jupiter and on different planets. And evaluating sprites and elves from Jupiter with these right here on Earth will assist us higher perceive electrical exercise in planetary atmospheres.”

Extra Concerning the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. Juno is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama, for the company’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Area in Denver constructed and operates the spacecraft.

Extra details about Juno is out there at:


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