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Radio detection of uranian lightning by Voyager 2


Within distances of 600,000 km from Uranus, the Planetary Radio Astronomy (PRA) experiment aboard the Voyager 2 spacecraft detected impulsive (100–300 ms) bursts of broad-band (≤900 kHz to 40 MHz) radio emission. This emission is very different from the uranian magnetospheric radio component, also discovered during the recent Voyager–Uranus encounter1. During the two Saturn encounters, in 1980 and 1981, the PRA experiments detected similar radio emissions2,3, which have been interpreted as radio emissions associated with lightning activity in the atmosphere of the planet4,5. By analogy with the Saturn electrostatic discharges (SED), we have adopted the term uranian electrostatic discharges (UED) for these new radio bursts. We have determined the physical characteristics of UED, and in the context of their interpretation as lightning-associated radio bursts, we derive here ionospheric peak electron densities over the uranian day- and nightside hemispheres.

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Zarka, P., Pedersen, B. Radio detection of uranian lightning by Voyager 2. Nature 323, 605–608 (1986).

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