AuthorGibbard, Seran Gwen, 1967-
KeywordsPhysics, Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Physics, Electricity and Magnetism.
Physics, Atmospheric Science.
AdvisorLevy, Eugene H.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLightning, a familiar phenomenon on Earth, may also occur at other times and locations in our solar system. It has been suggested as a mechanism for forming chondrules, millimeter-sized beads of glassy silicate found in primitive meteorites formed in the early solar system 4.5 billion years ago. It has also been detected in Voyager images of Jupiter, and there is evidence that it may occur on other planets as well, including Venus, Saturn and Neptune. The mechanism believed to produce lightning discharges on Earth, and possibly other planets, is charge production by collisions of ice particles, followed by gravitational separation of oppositely-charged large and small particles. This work examines the possibility of the occurrence of lightning discharges in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Neptune as well as in the protoplanetary nebula (PPN) of the early solar system by modeling charge separation and growth of the electric field. The model is also applied to the Earth as a test of its predictive power. It is found that the model can reproduce the correct timescale, particle charge and electric field magnitude seen in terrestrial lightning. The model also predicts lightning on Jupiter at the 3-5 bar level provided that the local water abundance is greater than the solar value. This is a much higher abundance than measured by the Galileo probe into Jupiter's atmosphere, which suggests that the water content measured by the probe does not apply to the entire planet. An application of the model to Neptune's water and NH₄SH clouds finds that lightning is unlikely in these clouds due to the large electric field required for electrical breakdown. Lightning may be possible in the overlying H₂S-NH₃ cloud provided that these substances can undergo collisional charge exchange with a magnitude at least 1% of that found in water ice. In the protoplanetary nebula, it appears that large-scale precipitation-induced lightning could not have occurred, due to the small mass density, low temperature and high electrical conductivity of the surroundings. This is a robust conclusion that does not depend sensitively on the values of the parameters involved.
Degree ProgramGraduate College