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Hubble Captures Stunning Image of Aurora in Jupiter's Atmosphere

Jul 01, 2016 08:24 AM EDT
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Using the ultraviolet capabilities of NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers were able to catch a glimpse of vivid auroras on the pole of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter.

Auroras are extraordinary vivid glows that occur when high energy particles enter a planet's atmosphere nears its magnetic poles and collide with atom of gas. The ultraviolet capabilities of Hubble is not there to only capture stunning images of Jupiter's aurora, but also to determine how the different components of Jupiter's auroras react to the different conditions of solar wind.

Solar wind is a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun. The detection of Jupiter's aurora comes in line with the approach of NASA's Juno spacecraft to Jupiter. At present, Juno is in the solar wind near Jupiter and is expected to enter the orbit of Jupiter in early July 2016.

"These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen", said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK, and principal investigator of the study in a statement. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno."

According to a press release, the auroras in Jupiter are hundred times more energetic compared to the auroras on Earth. Also, the auroras in Jupiter never ceases unlike the auroras in Earth.

Additionally, the auroras in Jupiter were caused by charged particles in the planet's surroundings grabbed by its strong magnetic field. These charged particles not only include those that are in the solar winds, but also the particles emitted by Jupiter's orbiting moon Io. On the other hand, the most intense auroras on Earth were caused by solar storms.

To better understand the changes of auroras in Jupiter, astronomers are using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Jupiter daily for one month. Using the series of images captured by Hubble together with the observations gathered by Juno as it enters the gas giant's orbit, the astronomers can better understand how the Sun and other sources in the solar system influence auroras.

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