If you thought lightning on Earth was spectacular, NASA is giving us a glimpse of what it looks like on Jupiter. Thanks to an image taken by JunoCam, we can clearly see a spark of green lightning in the distance. The photo, which was processed by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill, was taken during Juno's 31st close flyby of Jupiter on Dec. 30, 2020.
So what accounts for the green color? It's what's in the sky. on Earth lightning originates in clouds filled with water, Jupiter's bolts form in clouds containing an ammonia-water solution. And that's not the only difference between lightning on Earth and the Gas Giant. Just as seen in the photo, Jupiter's lightning primarily occurs near its poles. This is in contrast to Earth, where lightning is more frequent by the equator.
Photographs like this are yet another reminder of why NASA's Juno Mission is so special. Originally set to end in 2018, Juno will continue through 2025. During that time, it will continue its study of Jupiter and its moons. And in the next few months, Juno’s orbits will repeatedly take it close to Jupiter as the spacecraft passes over the giant planet’s night side. This means that there will be even more opportunities for Juno to photograph more lightning.