Alien Elves and Sprites Spotted on Jupiter

Did you know that sprites and elves were spotted on Jupiter by the Juno mission? Part of the New Frontiers program, the Junio deep space probe, was launched back in 2011 and entered the orbit of the mega planet on July 5, 2016. Massive investments were poured into this program as the planning alone took seven years. Since its launch, nine years have already elapsed. What is interesting about the mission is that it found sprites and elves in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter.  You must be imagining mythical beings dancing around, but that is not the case, though it is just as phenomenal.

ELVES is actually an acronym for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency which refers to the perturbations caused by electromagnetic pulse sources. NASA says that ELVES are triggered by lightning, which means a massive voltage of electricity is involved. These bolts of lightning happen high above the atmosphere and the clouds. The appearance of these ELVES are similar to a glowing flattened disk and appear only for a few milliseconds. Perhaps it’s too quick for the human eye, but it is definitely a sight to behold. They are colossal and can grow to as much as 200 miles on earth. On Jupiter, we can only speculate that it would be much larger.

Sprites, on the other hand, are transient luminous events that are seen above a lightning storm. Imagine Thor battling it out with full lighting power that he shines brightly while releasing hundreds of bolts of lightning. That is more or less how a sprite looks like. It is said to resemble a jellyfish. Like the ELVES, they only last for a few milliseconds and are therefore difficult to spot. The degree of effort needed could be lessened with the powerful equipment aboard the Juno spacecraft, as it can capture these events with ease and timing.

These findings were leased on Oct 29, 2020, and were just in time for Halloween. While it may be disappointing that they are not real elves or sprites, the transient events are magnificent to look at, too. Scientists have always suspected that these TLEs were present in other planets as they are on our own planet, but Juno was the first to document the events by capturing on camera 11 large-scale instances of the TLEs. This discovery was quite accidental, and in 2019, Juno’s spectrograph instrument was able to pick up a bright light of UV, leading scientists to investigate further. They can now credit themselves for detecting a TLE on Jupiter for the first time.

Rohini Giles said that these TLEs have distinctive colors on Earth and Jupiter. On Earth, they are reddish because of the presence of nitrogen in the atmosphere. On Jupiter, however, they could be pink or blue as the upper atmosphere mainly consists of hydrogen. The scientists have also ruled out the possibility of the events being merely mega bolts of lightning. So, no, it’s not Zeus lashing out bolts of electricity. Rather, these were authentic TLEs, as the events happened about 186  miles into the atmosphere. Hydrogen emissions also dominated the spectra of the bright flashes, pointing to sprites or ELVES.

The Juno scholars and scientists are looking forward to more data from the spacecraft so that studying them would lead to more sightings of TLEs. It is good, of course, that something is coming out of the spacecraft. Apart from spotting sprites and ELVEs, the Juno mission is also expected to measure the ratio of hydrogen and oxygen on the planet to determine the abundance of water on the planet. Estimating the core mass is also one key objective that will help scientists on Earth formulate a better understanding of the formation of the solar system. These are ambitious objectives, and we can credit our scientists for coming up with a machine that is able to fulfill those goals. In the meantime, we can content ourselves with Earthly elves and sprites.