A study of the possibility of sprites in the atmospheres of other planets

Yoav Yair, Yukihiro Takahashi, Roy Yaniv, Ute Ebert, Yukihiro Goto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sprites are a spectacular type of transient luminous events which occur above thunderstorms immediately after lightning. They have shapes of giant jellyfish, carrots, or columns and last tens of milliseconds. In Earth's atmosphere, sprites mostly emit in red and blue wavelengths from excited N 2 and N2+ and span a vertical range between 50 and 90 km above the surface. The emission spectra, morphology, and occurrence heights of sprites reflect the properties of the planetary atmosphere they inhabit and are related to the intensity of the initiating parent lightning. This paper presents results of theoretical calculations of the expected occurrence heights of sprites above lightning discharges in the CO2 atmosphere of Venus, the N2 atmosphere of Titan, and the H 2-He atmosphere of Jupiter. The expected emission features are presented, and the potential of detecting sprites in planetary atmospheres by orbiting spacecraft is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE09002
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009


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