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Electric! Astronomers find sprites in Jupiter’s atmosphere

31 Oct 2020, 12:00 UTC
Electric! Astronomers find sprites in Jupiter’s atmosphere
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View larger. | Artist’s concept of a sprite in Jupiter’s atmosphere, based on findings from the Juno spacecraft, which is orbiting Jupiter now. Scientists believe that, on Jupiter, lightning sprites are likely blue in color. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ SwRI.
Lightning sprites are fleeting but powerful electrical discharges high up in Earth’s atmosphere … above thunderstorms. They’re called transient luminous events or TLEs by scientists. They are eerily beautiful, and not easy to capture, and it wasn’t that long ago that scientists were debating their existence in Earth’s atmosphere. Now they’re a confirmed natural phenomenon on Earth – the subject of much study by meteorologists – and nature photographers sometimes capture them. And now NASA has found the first evidence of sprites and/or elves – rapidly expanding disk-shaped regions of luminosity, lasting less than a thousandth of a second – somewhere other than Earth. They’ve found them in the turbulent upper atmosphere of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter.
The peer-reviewed findings were announced by scientists with the Juno mission at Jupiter and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets on October 27, 2020. The results were also presented in a press conference during the annual meeting of the ...

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