This paper focuses on the rudimentary principles of discharge physics. The kinetic theory of electron transport in gases relevant to planetary atmospheres is examined and results of detailed Boltzmann kinetic calculations are presented for a range of applied electric fields. Comparisons against experimental swarm data are made. Both conventional breakdown and runaway breakdown are covered in detail. The phenomena of transient luminous events (TLEs), particularly sprites, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are discussed briefly as examples of discharges that occur in the terrestrial environment. The observations of terrestrial lightning that exist across the electromagnetic spectrum and presented throughout this volume fit well with the broader understanding of discharge physics that we present in this paper. We hope that this material provides the foundation on which explorations in search of discharge processes on other planets can be based and previous evidence confirmed or refuted.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science