Cool NASA illustrations of Jupiter's lightning and atmospheric "mushballs"

Piloting a craft through Jupiter's atmosphere would be very hard due to massive bolts of "shallow lightning" and the equally scary giant "mushballs" of water and ammonia that fall like hail. To celebrate the 9th anniversary of Juno, NASA shared some cool illustrations and a visualization of what it would feel like to fly through a Jovian storm.

The mushball findings solve a mystery of Jupiter's "missing" ammonia. Scientists believed the planet had more ammonia than was being observed by sensors:

A second paper, released yesterday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, envisions the strange brew of 2/3 water and 1/3 ammonia gas that becomes the seed for Jovian hailstones, known as mushballs. Consisting of layers of water-ammonia slush and ice covered by a thicker water-ice crust, mushballs are generated in a similar manner as hail is on Earth – by growing larger as they move up and down through the atmosphere.

"Eventually, the mushballs get so big, even the updrafts can't hold them, and they fall deeper into the atmosphere, encountering even warmer temperatures, where they eventually evaporate completely," said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur in Nice, France, and lead author of the second paper. "Their action drags ammonia and water down to deep levels in the planet's atmosphere. That explains why we don't see much of it in these places with Juno's Microwave Radiometer."

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Heidi N. Becker/Koji Kuramura