Storms on Other Worlds

Lightning might last only an instant, but it can shape a planet’s atmosphere and even spark life.

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On March 5,1979, the Voyager spacecraft hurtled past Jupiter and sent back a grainy snapshot of something previously spotted only on Earth: bursts of lightning. It was proof that our home planet isn’t alone in atmospheric spectacle. But it wasn’t surprising. After all, lightning is just a rush of electrons leading to an electric spark on an atmospheric scale — any atmosphere. In the years since, spacecraft have spotted bursts of lightning elsewhere in our solar system, from the...
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