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posted by hubie on Thursday September 14 2023, @04:58PM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

A team of planetary scientists at Arizona State University has found evidence that the multitude of bright flashes in Venus' atmosphere may be due to meteors passing through, not lightning strikes. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the group describes their study of the flashes of light and what they learned about them.

Scientists studying Venus have noted periodic flashes of light in its atmosphere for many years. For most of that time the flashes have been attributed to lightning flashing through the planet's atmosphere. Probes sent to the planet have done little to confirm the origin of the flashes—bursts of electromagnetic static have been recorded, which have been likened to the type heard during thunderstorms on Earth, suggesting lightning as a likely source.

But there has also been a sticking point—recorded bursts of static and images of a light flashing through the atmosphere have never been observed happening at the same time. Also, there is little evidence showing that Venus' atmosphere is capable of producing lightning. Such issues led the researchers on this new effort to consider another source—meteors.

[...] In comparing the number of flashes recorded in Venus' atmosphere with the number of possible meteor strikes, the team found them to be close enough to suggest that they could be related. More research is required, but if the initial findings turn out to be correct, space agencies will breathe a sigh of relief—sending a probe through clouds laden with lightning strikes is far more difficult than one where the skies are occasionally lit up by meteors.

Journal Reference:
C. H. Blaske et al, Meteors May Masquerade as Lightning in the Atmosphere of Venus, JGR Planets (2023). DOI: 10.1029/2023JE007914

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Friday September 15 2023, @11:35AM

    by VLM (445) on Friday September 15 2023, @11:35AM (#1324782)

    The article has a somewhat different story from the abstract.

    The abstract seems to imply the story is they used to monitor the light spectrum peak of electrical arcs and assume that means lightning because only a tiny fraction of meteor light energy "should" be at that specific frequency of light. However, they decided (handwaving here) that a much higher percentage of meteor-light could be emitted at what was believed to be the light wavelength/color for lightning. This has been interpreted for PR clickbait reasons as "ALL the light seen at the lightning wavelength must therefore actually be meteors so please click here please please please click click click me click click".

    Personally I'm surprised the entire analysis looks at wavelength. Simple experiments at home will show the light vs time graph of a meteor vs lightning are wildly different. My guess is its a cold war legacy that its supposedly "easy" to build telescope detectors that can discriminate between lighting, nukes, and meteors but that's all "cold war classified" so we can't monitor Venus with that tech. There's nothing classified about the double flash from nukes, the sparkgap broadband optical noise from lightning, or the slow burn of a meteor but there must be some classified secret sauce in the detector circuitry or software so we can't have nice things.