Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2023 June 25
A large swirling cloud on Jupiter is shown with a bright green
spot near its top. The cloud is surrounded by other less descript 
parts of Jupiter's upper atmosphere.
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Lightning on Jupiter
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; Processing & License: Kevin M. Gill

Explanation: Does lightning occur only on Earth? No. Spacecraft in our Solar System have detected lightning on other planets, including Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, while lightning is likely on Venus, Uranus, and Neptune. Lightning is a sudden rush of electrically charged particles from one location to another. On Earth, drafts of colliding ice and water droplets usually create lightning-generating charge separation, but what happens on Jupiter? Images and data from NASA's Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft bolster previous speculation that Jovian lightning is also created in clouds containing water and ice. In the featured Juno photograph, an optical flash was captured in a large cloud vortex near Jupiter's north pole. During the next few months, Juno will perform several close sweeps over Jupiter's night side, likely allowing the robotic probe to capture more data and images of Jovian lightning.

Tomorrow's picture: mountains below venus

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