In this view of a vortex near Jupiter’s north pole, NASA’s Juno mission observed the glow from a bolt of lightning. On Earth, lightning bolts originate from water clouds, and happen most frequently near the equator, while on Jupiter lightning likely also occurs in clouds containing an ammonia-water solution, and can be seen most often near the poles.
In the coming months, Juno’s orbits will repeatedly take it close to Jupiter as the spacecraft passes over the giant planet’s night side, which will provide even more opportunities for Juno’s suite of science instruments to catch lightning in the act.
Juno captured this view as Juno completed its 31st close flyby of Jupiter on Dec. 30, 2020. In 2022, Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the image from raw data from the JunoCam instrument aboard the spacecraft. At the time the raw image was taken, Juno was about 19,900 miles (32,000 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 78 degrees as it approached the planet.
JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. More information about NASA citizen science can be found at https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience and https://www.nasa.gov/solve/opportunities/citizenscience. More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://missionjuno.swri.edu. For more about this finding and other science results, see https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/science-findings.
Image credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY