NASA’s ‘Juno’ Spacecraft At Jupiter Wraps Up Another Spectacular Orbit Of The ‘Blue Planet’

Who knew Jupiter was blue? 

The giant planet often depicted as being orange and having a “Great Red Spot” storm is once again revealed to be a pale blueish planet in the latest spectacular images received from space. 

The latest images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft —surely one of its most prolific ever launched—include spectacular close-ups of cyclones, vortices and swirls in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere. 

The images, taken by its wide-angle JunoCam instrument, were received from 511 million miles/822 million kilometers via NASA’s Deep Space Network and then made available to the public.

All of these images included here

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft spots ‘sprites’ and ‘elves’ dancing in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Just in time for Halloween, NASA announced results from the space agency’s Juno mission that suggest “sprites” or “elves” could be frolicking in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere. 

Named for mischievous fairy-like creatures from European myth, sprites are transient luminous events (TLE) seen from far above a lightning storm, including storms on Earth. Lightning triggers these TLEs, which brighten miles of sky above a thunderstorm and closely resemble a jellyfish. Each sprite lasts for only a few milliseconds, making them difficult to spot. 

Elves, however, aren’t named for the mythological creature. ELVES is an acronym standing for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources, according to NASA. Like sprites, elves are triggered by lightning and occur high above the clouds. What sets them apart is their shape. Elves look like a flattened disk glowing in the upper atmosphere. Although they, too, appear for only a few

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Juno mission observes ‘sprites’ dancing in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Blue sprites and elves have been detected twirling in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno mission. While it may sound like something out of a fantasy novel, sprites and elves are actually two types of quick, bright flashes of light, or transient luminous events.

background pattern: A sprite is depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter's hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make this luminous event appear blue.

© SwRI/JPL-Caltech/NASA
A sprite is depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter’s hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make this luminous event appear blue.

Although these lightning-like flashes happen on Earth, this marks the first time these luminous events have been spotted on another planet.


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In European mythology, sprites are clever, fairy-like creatures. In science, they’re bright centers of light that are triggered by lightning and occur far above thunderstorms.

These phenomena occur on Earth, usually about 60 miles above large thunderstorms. Although the light from sprites brightening the sky can span 15 to 30 miles across, these flares last for just milliseconds. The

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Juno data indicates ‘sprites’ or ‘elves’ frolic in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Juno data indicates 'sprites' or 'elves' frolic in Jupiter's atmosphere
The lightning phenomenon known as a sprite depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter’s hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make them appear blue. In Earth’s upper atmosphere, the presence of nitrogen gives them a reddish color. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

New results from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter suggest that either “sprites” or “elves” could be dancing in the upper atmosphere of the solar system’s largest planet. It is the first time these bright, unpredictable and extremely brief flashes of light—formally known as transient luminous events, or TLE’s—have been observed on another world. The findings were published on Oct. 27, 2020, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Scientists predicted these bright, superfast flashes of light should also be present in Jupiter’s immense roiling atmosphere, but their existence remained theoretical. Then, in the summer of 2019, researchers working with data from Juno’s ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS) discovered something unexpected: a bright,

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