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Volume 584 Issue 7819, 6 August 2020

Jovian lightning

The cover shows an artist’s impression of small lightning flashes from high-altitude storms on Jupiter’s dark side. ‘Superbolt’ lightning from great depths has been observed on Jupiter before, but in this week’s issue, Heidi Becker and her colleagues present optical data from the Stellar Reference Unit camera onboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft that reveal flashes comparable in energy to standard lightning on Earth. The team identified flashes that lasted just 5.4 milliseconds with a time between flashes of tens of milliseconds. The observed flash rate is more than an order of magnitude greater than has been previously seen. The researchers note that several of the observed flashes occurred at altitudes where there is no liquid water. The observed ‘shallow lightning’ is explained by the existence of ammonia–water clouds that had not previously been recognized.

Cover image: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Heidi N. Becker/Koji Kuramura

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