Space Science Reviews

, Volume 137, Issue 1–4, pp 257–269 | Cite as

Ground-Based and Space-Based Radio Observations of Planetary Lightning

  • P. ZarkaEmail author
  • W. Farrell
  • G. Fischer
  • A. Konovalenko


We review radio detection of planetary lightning performed by Voyager, Galileo (including in-situ probe measurements), Cassini, and other spacecraft, and compare the information on the underlying physics derived from these observations—especially the discharge duration, at Jupiter and Saturn—with our knowledge of terrestrial lightning. The controversial evidence at Venus is discussed, as well as the prospects for lightning-like discharges in Martian dust-storms (and studies on terrestrial analogues). In addition, lightning sources provide radio beacons that allow us to probe planetary ionospheres. Ground-based observations of Saturn’s lightning have been attempted several times in the past and have been recently successful. They will be the subject of observations by the new generation of giant radio arrays. We review past results and future studies, focussing on the detection challenges and on the interest of ground-based radio monitoring, in conjunction with spacecraft observations or in standalone mode.


Planetary lightning Planetary atmospheres Atmospheric electricity Planetary ionospheres Radioastronomy Radio emission Radio wave propagation 



electromagnetic (waves)


radio frequency


cutoff frequency


peak frequency of lighting’s radio spectrum


plasma frequency


high frequency (e.m. waves)


stroke current (i o = current constant; α,β = time constants)




wave vector


Local Time


LOw Frequency ARray (in construction)


Long Wavelength Array (USA)


refractive index


Nançay decameter array, France


electron density


spectral power


Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument on Cassini orbiter


flux density at f peak


Saturn’s electrostatic discharges


noise level/detection threshold


stroke duration


angle of incidence of the radio wave on the ionosphere


Uranus’ electrostatic discharges


Ukrainian T-shape Radiotelescope, mark 2 (near Kharkov, Ukraine)


very low frequency

planetary angular diameter


92.60.Pw 52.80.Mg 94.20.-y 95.55.Jz 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Zarka
    • 1
    Email author
  • W. Farrell
    • 2
  • G. Fischer
    • 3
  • A. Konovalenko
    • 4
  1. 1.Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMCUniversité Paris DiderotMeudonFrance
  2. 2.Science Exploration DirectorateNASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  3. 3.Dept. of Physics and AstronomyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Radio AstronomyNational Academy of Sciences of UkraineKharkivUkraine

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