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News Entry# 422984
Oct 28 (19:03) A NASA spacecraft circling Jupiter has captured the planet's colorful electrical outbursts — sprites and elves — for the first time (www.businessinsider.in)
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News Entry# 422984  Blog Entry# 4761153   
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NASA's Juno spacecraft just captured images of colorful bursts of lightning-like electricity high in Jupiter's atmosphere.

These phenomena, which include jellyfish-shaped "sprites" and glowing disks called "elves," also occur high up in Earth's atmosphere during thunderstorms. They were first documented in 1989. Scientists predicted that other planets that have lightning, like Jupiter, would also produce these transient luminous events.

"In
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the process of putting together those images, we noticed that very occasionally we saw these surprising, short-lived, bright flashes," Rohini Giles, a researcher on the Juno team, said in a press conference on Tuesday, during the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Association's Division for Planetary Sciences.

Each of these outbursts lasted just a few milliseconds.

In other cases, lightning strikes send electromagnetic pulses upward. The pulses produce glowing disks: elves.

"On Earth, sprites and elves appear reddish in color due to their interaction with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere," Giles said. "But on Jupiter, the upper atmosphere mostly consists of hydrogen, so they would likely appear either blue or pink."

But everything else points to these 11 outbursts being transient luminous events: They were extremely short-lived, emitted lots of hydrogen, and occured about 186 miles (300 kilometers) above Jupiter's water clouds — too high to be lightning.

"We're continuing to look for more telltale signs of elves and sprites every time Juno does a science pass," Giles said. "Now that we know what we are looking for, it will be easier to find them at Jupiter and on other planets. And comparing sprites and elves from Jupiter with those here on Earth will help us better understand electrical activity in planetary atmospheres."

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