NASA Probe Captures Green Lightning Bolt on Jupiter

Lightning coming from Jupiter
A green light, believed to be lightning, emanates from Jupiter as seen by the Juno space probe.

NASA’s Jupiter probe has captured what is thought to be a bolt of lightning firing on the gas giant’s surface.

The Juno spacecraft captured this image on December 30, 2020, but it was only released by the space agency on Thursday. At the time the photo was taken, the spacecraft was almost 19,000 miles above Jupiter’s clouds. The green light visible in the image was spotted close to the planet’s north pole.

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the images from the RAW data taken with the JunoCam instrument that’s attached to Juno.

In the coming months, Juno’s orbits will repeatedly take it close to Jupiter as the spacecraft passes over the giant planet’s night side. This adventure will provide even more opportunities for Juno’s suite of science instruments to catch lightning in the act.

CBS reports that lightning also occurs on other planets, in 1979 the Voyager 1 spacecraft captured flashes of lightning on Juputer that were 10 times more powerful than lightning on Earth. On Saturn, lightning can strike up to 10 times per second.

There has been no recorded lightning on Mars, but bright flashes have been witnessed during dust storms and some scientists believe craters on Mars could have been caused by lightning strikes.

Juno’s mission was supposed to only last five years but NASA extended it until 2025. It has previously imaged Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, capturing the highest resolution photos ever of the distant celestial object.

Data from Juno has also been used to create 3D renders of Jupiter’s cloud tops that look like “frosted cupcakes.”


Over the years, NASA’s Juno probe has captured some of the most beautiful photos of Jupiter which it has been orbiting since 2016.

The Juno probe previously captured data that was made into a 3D-rendering of Jupiter’s clouds which looked like a frosted cupcake.

On board, JunoCam is a visible-light camera with a field of view of 58 degrees and has four filters; red, green, and, blue, that filter visible light. While the fourth filter, a methane band, provides color imaging.

Image credits:Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY.