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Juno gets mission extension to complete science objectives

Juno gets mission extension to complete science objectives

The findings, published in Nature Wednesday, also suggest some differences in Jupiter's lightning compared to Earth's - mainly the location.

On Earth, radio waves associated with lightning are in the megahertz range.

The next job for Juno is another flyby, the thirteenth since arriving, over the planet's cloud tops. When lightning strikes, it acts like a radio transmitter, blasting radio waves with each strike, according to NASA. Now, reports Charles Q. Choi at Space.com, the Juno spacecraft has taken its own measurements and found that lightning on Jupiter is not as unusual as we once thought.

In Jupiter, lightning occurs mostly near the poles and is more common in the northern hemisphere. This paper published in the Journal Nature presents a largest ever known collection of the recordings of lightning from the magnificent Jupiter.

It's a longstanding mystery that could only have been solved with Juno.

"There is a lot of activity near Jupiter's poles but none near the equator".

"Many theories were offered up to explain it, but no one theory could ever get traction as the answer", Brown said of the problem.

Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere is riddled with storms, so it stands to reason there's lightning there too.

Jupiter's lightning is clustered in the polar regions, while Earth experiences lightning more frequently around the equator. The signals were showing up in the kilohertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, but not the megahertz range as is the case with Earth lightning.

When Juno flew by the planet in 2016, she used a wide range of highly sensitive instruments to record the emissions of a gas giant. Thanks passed to it by the data becomes possible to study the gas giant's atmosphere. Because our equator bears the brunt of this sunshine, warm moist air rises (through convection) more freely there, which fuels towering thunderstorms that produce lightning.

Some of Juno's accomplishments include offering humanity's first up-close view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, stating that the planet's atmosphere has features unlike anything else encountered in the solar system, and that the Great Red Spot storm has been shrinking for years but that as it shrinks it grows taller. The spacecraft came nearly 50 times closer to the planet than Voyager 1 ever did, flying "closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft in history", states Juno's principal investigator Scott Bolton from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, who was involved in both studies. 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. It is believed that this effect is due to differences in the distribution of heat on both planets.

Heat drives lightning, and the sun's rays cause Earth's equator to heat up more than the poles.

The findings of NASA's Juno Mission scientists was supported by the team from Czech Academy of Sciences. The decision was made on June 7, following an assessment that Juno is still capable of collecting science data.

"Our unique orbit allows our spacecraft to fly closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft in history, so the signal strength of what the planet is radiating out is a thousand times stronger", Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, said in the statement.

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