Eleven transient bright flashes were detected in Jupiter's atmosphere using the ultraviolet spectrograph instrument on the Juno spacecraft. These bright flashes are only observed in a single spin of the spacecraft and their brightness decays exponentially with time, with a duration of ∼1.4 ms. The spectra are dominated by H2 Lyman band emission and based on the level of atmospheric absorption, we estimate a source altitude of 260 km above the 1-bar level. Based on these characteristics, we suggest that these are observations of transient luminous events (TLEs) in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. In particular, we suggest that these are elves, sprites or sprite halos, three types of TLEs that occur in the Earth's upper atmosphere in response to tropospheric lightning strikes. This is supported by visible light imaging, which shows cloud features typical of lightning source regions at the locations of several of the bright flashes. TLEs have previously only been observed on Earth, although theoretical and experimental work has predicted that they should also be present on Jupiter.
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets)
- Pub Date:
- November 2020
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- Accepted in JGR: Planets. 28 pages, 8 figures