NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was able to capture some incredible pictures of bright blue daytime lightning on Saturn. Cassini has been visiting the ringed planet for about eight years now and came across the lightning strike on March 6, 2011 during a massive storm that had been occurring around the northern hemisphere for most of 2011. NASA had only unveiled the images yesterday and admitted that the discovery was a pretty big surprise.
An imaging team associate said that they didn’t expect to see lighting on the planet’s day side. Since Cassini was able to detect the lighting, it had to have been pretty intense. The images were analyzed and showed that the energy from the lightning may have generated up to 3 million watts in just a single second, meaning that daytime lightning on Saturn is just as powerful as some of the strongest lightning strikes we have here on Earth.
One thing that scientists definitely don’t know about the lightning is whether or not its actual color is blue or if it only appeared blue in Cassini’s blue imaging filter–due to the camera’s short exposure time that helps it detect lightning. Whatever color it is, Cassini was still pretty lucky to catch it. The spacecraft was initially launched in 1997 and has been orbiting Saturn since 2006, expected to complete an extended mission by 2017.