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Prevalent lightning sferics at 600 megahertz near Jupiter’s poles

Brown, Shannon and Janssen, Michael and Adumitroaie, Virgil and Atreya, Sushil and Bolton, Scott and Gulkis, Samuel and Ingersoll, Andrew and Levin, Steven and Li, Cheng and Li, Liming and Lunine, Jonathan and Misra, Sidharth and Orton, Glenn and Steffes, Paul and Tabataba-Vakili, Fachreddin and Kolmašová, Ivana and Imai, Masafumi and Santolík, Ondřej and Kurth, William and Hospodarsky, George and Gurnett, Donald and Connerney, John (2018) Prevalent lightning sferics at 600 megahertz near Jupiter’s poles. Nature, 558 (7708). pp. 87-90. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0156-5.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Example of lightning detection in the MWR antenna temperature time series) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: Illustration of the lightning extraction process) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: Normalized 600-MHz lightning power, expressed as antenna temperature, as a function of latitude) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Lightning detections per second by the MWR and the Waves instrument as a function of latitude) - Supplemental Material
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[img] MS Excel (Source Data for Figure 1) - Supplemental Material
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[img] MS Excel (Source Data for Figure 2) - Supplemental Material
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Lightning has been detected on Jupiter by all visiting spacecraft through night-side optical imaging and whistler (lightning-generated radio waves) signatures. Jovian lightning is thought to be generated in the mixed-phase (liquid–ice) region of convective water clouds through a charge-separation process between condensed liquid water and water-ice particles, similar to that of terrestrial (cloud-to-cloud) lightning. Unlike terrestrial lightning, which emits broadly over the radio spectrum up to gigahertz frequencies, lightning on Jupiter has been detected only at kilohertz frequencies, despite a search for signals in the megahertz range. Strong ionospheric attenuation or a lightning discharge much slower than that on Earth have been suggested as possible explanations for this discrepancy. Here we report observations of Jovian lightning sferics (broadband electromagnetic impulses) at 600 megahertz from the Microwave Radiometer onboard the Juno spacecraft. These detections imply that Jovian lightning discharges are not distinct from terrestrial lightning, as previously thought. In the first eight orbits of Juno, we detected 377 lightning sferics from pole to pole. We found lightning to be prevalent in the polar regions, absent near the equator, and most frequent in the northern hemisphere, at latitudes higher than 40 degrees north. Because the distribution of lightning is a proxy for moist convective activity, which is thought to be an important source of outward energy transport from the interior of the planet, increased convection towards the poles could indicate an outward internal heat flux that is preferentially weighted towards the poles. The distribution of moist convection is important for understanding the composition, general circulation and energy transport on Jupiter.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Brown, Shannon0000-0002-7566-8537
Janssen, Michael0000-0001-5476-731X
Adumitroaie, Virgil0000-0001-7239-0069
Atreya, Sushil0000-0002-1972-1815
Bolton, Scott0000-0002-9115-0789
Gulkis, Samuel0000-0002-4480-3628
Ingersoll, Andrew0000-0002-2035-9198
Levin, Steven0000-0003-2242-5459
Li, Cheng0000-0002-8280-3119
Li, Liming0000-0002-5257-9849
Lunine, Jonathan0000-0003-2279-4131
Misra, Sidharth0000-0003-1738-6635
Orton, Glenn0000-0001-7871-2823
Steffes, Paul0000-0003-3962-8957
Additional Information:© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. Received: 21 November 2017; Accepted: 14 March 2018; Published: 06 June 2018. Data availability: The Juno MWR data that support the findings of this study are available from the Planetary Data System archive ( as ‘Juno Jupiter MWR reduced data records v1.0’ (dataset JNO-J-MWR-3-RDR-V1.0). This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The research at the University of Iowa was supported by NASA through contract 699041X with the Southwest Research Institute. The work of I.K. and O.S. was supported by grants MSM100421701 and LTAUSA17070 and by the Praemium Academiae award. Author Contributions: S. Br. analysed the MWR data to find and extract the lightning observations. M.J. is the co-investigator lead of the MWR. S.A., A.I., C.L., J.L., L.L., G.O., P.S., S. Bo. and F.T.-V. contributed to the interpretation of the data and the implications for atmospheric processes. S.G., S.M. and V.A. contributed to the interpretation of the radiometric source signal. I.K., M.I. and O.S. calculated whistler rates. W.S.K., G.B.H. and D.A.G advised on data analysis. W.S.K. is responsible for the Juno Waves instrument. J.E.P.C. provided the planetary magnetic field measurements. S. Br. wrote the manuscript with input from all authors. The authors declare no competing interests.
Group:Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic)MSM100421701
Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic)LTAUSA17070
Praemium AcademiaeUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Atmospheric dynamics; Giant planets
Issue or Number:7708
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180611-081908081
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:86958
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Jun 2018 21:01
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:43

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