Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

NASA Extends Juno Jupiter Mission Until July 2021

6_7_Jupiter lightning NASA Extends Juno Jupiter Mission Until July 2021
Elijah Vega | 09 June, 2018, 11:58

Co-author of the study William Kurth, a University of Iowa space scientist, calls the similarities between thunderstorms of Jupiter and Earth "astounding", particularly since the two planets have very different atmospheres.

But the radio signals slightly differed from what researchers have recorded on Earth, raising questions about the nature of lightning on Jupiter. Specifically, the mission's main goal is to try and determine how much water is in the planet's atmosphere and to measure its composition, temperature, cloud patterns, and map its magnetic and gravity fields.

Until the evolution of the NASA's Juno Mission, all the lightning signals recorded earlier were limited to visual detections or the radio spectrum's kilohertz range.

"No matter what planet you're on, lightning bolts act like radio transmitters - sending out radio waves when they flash across a sky", Shannon Brown of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the lead author of the latest work said in a statement. NASA's Juno spacecraft has found Jovian lightning produces the same sort of radio emissions as those on Earth, but they only seem to occur at the poles.

In Jupiter, lightning occurs mostly near the poles and is more common in the northern hemisphere.

The team's finding was corroborated in a second paper, also published in Nature. Now, however, Juno can hear the signals the others missed, and that means the lightning on Jupiter is actually a lot like our own... but not exactly the same. This, in spite of Jupiter's equator playing host to the solar system's largest, most ferocious storm. "Many theories were offered up to explain it, but no one theory could ever get traction as the answer".

An artist's impression of lightning bolts in the atmosphere if Jupiter.

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Lightning bolts concentrate near Earth's equator and near the poles on Jupiter due to the heat welling up at its maximum on these places. But when the venerable explorer hurtled by, the data showed that the lightning-associated radio signals didn't match the details of the radio signals produced by Earth's lightning.

"We think the reason we are the only ones who can see it is because Juno is flying closer to the lighting than ever before, and we are searching at a radio frequency that passes easily through Jupiter's ionosphere", she adds.

Now, researchers from NASA's Juno mission depict the manners by which lightning on Jupiter is really practically equivalent to Earth's lightning. In any case, despite the fact that Jupiter's atmosphere infers the more of its heat within the planet itself, this doesn't render the Sun's beam irrelevant. At the equator, it's just warm enough that warm gas doesn't rise, but at the poles the gusts are lifted, driving convection to create lightning. It took nearly five years to reach Jupiter after a roundabout route that sent it on a flyby of Earth in 2013 to build up speed to match orbits with Jupiter.

"These findings could help to improve our understanding of the composition, circulation, and energy flows on Jupiter", Brown concluded.

NASA has approved an update to Juno's science operations until July 2021.

Juno has made all of this research possible.

Juno's Principle investigator from the South West Research Institute, Scott Bolton, revealed in an email that the orbits are longer than expected and that is why the spacecraft needs more time to collect planned scientific measurements.

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