Nature 450, 661-662 (29 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05930; Received 23 January 2007; Accepted 1 May 2007

Lightning on Venus inferred from whistler-mode waves in the ionosphere

C. T. Russell1, T. L. Zhang2, M. Delva2, W. Magnes2, R. J. Strangeway1 & H. Y. Wei1

  1. Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1567, USA
  2. Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz, A-8042, Austria

Correspondence to: C. T. Russell1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.T.R. (Email: ctrussell@igpp.ucla.edu).

The occurrence of lightning in a planetary atmosphere enables chemical processes to take place that would not occur under standard temperatures and pressures1, 2, 3. Although much evidence has been reported for lightning on Venus4, 5, 6, 7, 8, some searches have been negative9, 10, 11 and the existence of lightning has remained controversial. A definitive detection would be the confirmation of electromagnetic, whistler-mode waves propagating from the atmosphere to the ionosphere. Here we report observations of Venus' ionosphere that reveal strong, circularly polarized, electromagnetic waves with frequencies near 100 Hz. The waves appear as bursts of radiation lasting 0.25 to 0.5 s, and have the expected properties of whistler-mode signals generated by lightning discharges in Venus' clouds.


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