New high-definition imagery captured of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno spacecraft is revealing colorful, lighting-like bursts of energy in the upper atmosphere of our solar system’s largest planet.
The phenomena – haunting, jellyfish-like spurts of red lightning dubbed “sprites” and glowing disks known as “elves” – are common occurrences in the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmospheres during thunderstorms, and were first discovered in 1989. Since then, they have been sighted over every continent besides Antarctica.
Scientists have theorized that any planet that has lightning would also produce these super-fast electrical bursts that occur up to 60 miles up in the Earth’s sky, reaching toward space. Researchers predicted that this would certainly be the case in Jupiter’s massive, roiling atmosphere.
However, nobody had ever seen these bright, transient luminous events dancing across alien skies – until now.
Since 2016, Juno has orbited Jupiter and collected troves of images of its aurorae through the spacecraft’s ultraviolet light, or ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS). When scientists began processing some of these images, they noticed an unexpected detail: bright, narrow streaks of ultraviolet emissions that appeared in a flash before quickly vanishing.
“In the process of putting together those images, we noticed that very occasionally we saw these surprising, short-lived, bright flashes,” said Juno scientist Rohini Giles during a Tuesday press conference at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, according to Business Insider.
“We then went and searched through all of the data that we’ve taken over four years of the mission and we found a total of 11 flashes all with very similar properties,” she added. The outbursts only lasted mere milliseconds.
On Tuesday, her team published a new study on these phenomena in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
Here on Earth, sprites often resemble alienlike jellyfish-style creatures dangling from the ionosphere, or the layer that lies just above the dense lower atmosphere. In other cases, they look like vertical pillars of light with thin, curling tendrils – and these are called carrot curls due to their resemblance to the root vegetable.
Sprites were given their quasi-magical name by late University of Alaska physics professor Davis Sentman, who devised the name for this weather phenomenon due to it being “well suited to describe their appearance” and fleeting, fairy-like nature – much like the mischievous characters from English folklore.
Sprites occur when lightning strikes the ground, releasing positive electrical energy that requires balancing by an equal and oppositely charged electrical discharge into the sky. The sprites also occur much higher into the sky than regular lightning, which strikes in between electrically charged air, clouds, and our planet’s surface.
In some cases, lightning strikes also send electromagnetic pulses upward, producing glowing disks known as elves.
“On Earth, sprites and elves appear reddish in color due to their interaction with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere,” Giles noted. “But on Jupiter, the upper atmosphere mostly consists of hydrogen, so they would likely appear either blue or pink.”
The Juno team is still unable to confirm whether the events were actually caused by lightning strikes, mainly because the probe’s device that detects lightning is on the opposite side of the spacecraft from its UVS. The images from the two devices are also taken 10 seconds apart, which is far too long a period of time for both instruments to analyze the same flash of light.
However, the researchers are confident that the 11 outbursts detected were transient luminous events. In each case, they disappeared in a flash, emitted massive amounts of hydrogen, and took place 186 miles above Jupiter’s water clouds – far too high to be simple lightning.
“We’re continuing to look for more telltale signs of elves and sprites every time Juno does a science pass,” Giles said.
“Now that we know what we are looking for, it will be easier to find them at Jupiter and on other planets,” she added. “And comparing sprites and elves from Jupiter with those here on Earth will help us better understand electrical activity in planetary atmospheres.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.