Though it’s typically mentioned in relation to the damage it causes, lightning may also play a constructive role in the evolution of life, causing changes to molecular biology and bacteria. According to New Scientist, lightning activity on other planets might even lend a hand in discovering if alien life exists.
Jupiter is among the planets with serious lightning action. Night-side imaging done by NASA’s New Horizons Mission captured lightning bolts ten times stronger than those occurring on Earth. And with storms lasting up to nine months (move over, Hurricane Katrina), Saturn is also crushing Earth’s claim to lightning-fame. Electrical storms on Earth are associated with water clouds, but Venus endures lightning associated with clouds of sulfuric acid.
It’s not just local planets that suffer the effects of lightning storms; Kepler-10b, an exoplanet 173 ± 27 parsecs away from Earth, experiences trillions of strikes in the span of just an hour. Scientists believe this to be a result of Kepler-10b’s many volcanoes.
Astronomers’ findings suggest that lightning on neighboring planets is light-years worse than what we endure on Earth. However, as no lightning protection equipment has yet been ordered by citizens of Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, or Kepler-10b, it seems unlikely that any of these planets are occupied by intelligent life.