Letter | Published:

Non-detection at Venus of high-frequency radio signals characteristic of terrestrial lightning

Nature volume 409, pages 313315 (18 January 2001) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

The detection1,2 of impulsive low-frequency (10 to 80 kHz) radio signals, and separate very-low-frequency (100 Hz) radio ‘whistler’ signals3,4,5 provided the first evidence for lightning in the atmosphere of Venus. Later, a small number of impulsive high-frequency (100 kHz to 5.6 MHz) radio signals, possibly due to lightning, were also detected6. The existence of lightning at Venus has, however, remained controversial7,8,9,10,11,12,13. Here we report the results of a search for high-frequency (0.125 to 16 MHz) radio signals during two close fly-bys of Venus by the Cassini spacecraft. Such signals are characteristic of terrestrial lightning, and are commonly heard on AM (amplitude-modulated) radios during thunderstorms. Although the instrument easily detected signals from terrestrial lightning during a later fly-by of Earth (at a global flash rate estimated to be 70 s -1, which is consistent with the rate expected for terrestrial lightning), no similar signals were detected from Venus. If lightning exists in the venusian atmosphere, it is either extremely rare, or very different from terrestrial lightning.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Lightning in Venus' cloud layer. Cosmic Res. 17, 747–762 (1979).

  2. 2.

    , & in Venus (eds Hunten, D. M., Colin, L., Donahue, T. M. & Moroz, V. I.) 565–603 (Arizona, Tucson, 1983).

  3. 3.

    , , & Evidence for lightning on Venus. Nature 282, 614–616 (1979).

  4. 4.

    , , & Lightning on Venus: Orbiter detection of whistler signals. J. Geophys. Res. 85, 8158–8166 ( 1980).

  5. 5.

    Venus lightning. Space Sci. Rev. 55, 317 –356 (1991).

  6. 6.

    et al. Lightning and plasma wave observations from the Galileo Flyby of Venus. Science 253, 1522– 1525 (1991).

  7. 7.

    Venus lightning: Pros and cons. Adv. Space Res. 15, 109–112 (1995).

  8. 8.

    in Venus II (eds Bougher, S. W., Hunten, D. M. & Phillips, R. J.) 125–157 (Arizona, Tucson, 1997).

  9. 9.

    Lightnings and nitric oxide on Venus. Planet. Space Sci. 31, 1363–1369 (1983).

  10. 10.

    , & Optical detection of lightning on Venus. Icarus 117, 345–351 ( 1995).

  11. 11.

    , , , & Optical search for lightning on Venus. Geophys. Res. Lett. 8, 233– 236 (1981).

  12. 12.

    et al. Overview of VEGA Venus balloon in situ meteorological measurements. Science 231, 1411–1414 (1986).

  13. 13.

    , & Venus “lightning” signals reinterpreted as in situ plasma noise. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 9907–9919 (1987).

  14. 14.

    et al. The Cassini radio and plasma wave investigation. Space Sci. Rev. (submitted).

  15. 15.

    Lightning 272 (Dover, New York, 1969).

  16. 16.

    in Lightning Vol. 1, Physics of Lightning (ed. Golde, R. H.) 351– 384 (Academic, London, 1977).

  17. 17.

    et al. in Venus (eds Hunten, D. M., Colin, L., Donahue, T. M. & Moroz, V. I.) 779–872 (Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson, 1983).

  18. 18.

    The galactic radio spectrum between 130 and 2600 kHz. Astrophys. J. 180, 359–370 ( 1973).

  19. 19.

    , , , & Preliminary results from the Sprites 94 aircraft campaign, 1. Red sprites. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 1205–1208 ( 1995).

  20. 20.

    , , , & Preliminary results from the Sprites 94 aircraft campaign, 2. Blue Jets. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 1209–1212 ( 1995).

Download references

Acknowledgements

The research at the University of Iowa was supported by NASA through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. *Department of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242 , USA

    • D. A. Gurnett
    • , W. S. Kurth
    • , G. B. Hospodarsky
    •  & T. F. Averkamp
  2. †Space Research Department, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS UMR 8632, Meudon, France

    • P. Zarka
    •  & R. Manning
  3. ‡NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center , Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

    • M. L. Kaiser
    •  & W. M. Farrell

Authors

  1. Search for D. A. Gurnett in:

  2. Search for P. Zarka in:

  3. Search for R. Manning in:

  4. Search for W. S. Kurth in:

  5. Search for G. B. Hospodarsky in:

  6. Search for T. F. Averkamp in:

  7. Search for M. L. Kaiser in:

  8. Search for W. M. Farrell in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. A. Gurnett.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/35053009

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.