Astronomers capture stunning photos of Jupiter auroras through the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The observations were made on May 19 and were transformed into a time-lapse video now available.
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen,” adds the study’s principal investigator Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”
The auroras were first discovered decades before but it was only later that scientists realized that Jupiter’s auroras are best visible in the ultraviolet. The planet is also known for its storms, like the Great Red Spot.
Unlike the auroras on Earth, Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more energetic and they never stop. These are created when charged particles by solar storms react with Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, causing them to glow green, red and purple.
The same reaction also causes auroras here on Earth but Jupiter’s auroras can also be made by other causes. Auroras on the solar system’s largest planet are also caused when its strong magnetic field takes hold of other charged particles from its orbiting moon Io.
The Hubble observed the gas giant every day for one month. The scientists used the images captured this time to create videos that show the movements of the bright auroras. Interestingly, the auroras cover areas larger than the Earth.
These findings will provide additional details into how the sun and other factors influence the development of auroras. The analysis of Hubble’s observations will be available months from now.
The observations are just in time as NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to enter Jupiter’s orbit this July 4. Juno will reach the planet after a five-year journey. The spacecraft will assess Jupiter’s structure and evolution.
Jupiter auroras were seen for the first time in 1979 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. In 2000, scientists gathered information and other photos of the planet’s auroras using the NASA/ESA Cassini and Hubble heic0009. The Hubble also took some photos in support of NASA Mission New Horizons, which used Jupiter’s gravity to make its way to Pluto.