A new image of Jupiter taken by the JunoCam on NASA’s Juno spacecraft shows a bright green orb near the planet’s turbulent north pole. While the orb is indeed a bit strange to see after so many observations of the planet, NASA says that it’s just a lightning bolt.
The image, which was shared earlier this month, shows the green orb sparkling brightly against the cloud coverage that covers Jupiter’s surface. NASA claims that the ammonia and water solution found in clouds on Jupiter creates lightning. Lightning on Earth is caused by cloudwater near our equator. This kind of occurrence often happens around Jupiter’s poles.
Juno has orbited Jupiter 35 times since it began its mission in 2016. During those orbits, the little spacecraft has captured countless images of the planet, as well as data on some of its largest moons. NASA says that the recently shared image was actually captured in December 2020. It’s sat in the archive for some time. The image of the green orb on Jupiter was processed by Kevin M. Gill, a citizen scientist.
The green orb seen in the photo was captured when Juno was just 19,900 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The lightning explanation obviously makes a lot of sense, especially since Voyager 1 captured similar lightning flashes on the planet back in 1979. Those flashes were estimated to be up to 10 times more powerful than lightning on Earth. Other planets also experience lightning strikes, too, and Saturn has reportedly seen lightning that can strike as much as 10 times per second.
Juno’s original expected lifespan was only five years. However, NASA has continued to extend the mission up until 2025. This spacecraft taught us many things about Jupiter. It captured data on its dust rings and the Great Blue Spot , which is known to exist in Jupiter. The latest picture is a reminder of the beauty that this volatile planet has to offer.
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