(CN) — The Hubble Space Telescope captured images of auroras — so-called “Northern Lights” — over Jupiter just days before NASA’s Juno spaceship began orbiting the gas giant.
Auroras are essentially light shows created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas.
The images are a part of program that aims to determine how different components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to various conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the Sun. While the Hubble telescope is observing the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind.
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen,” study co-author Jonathan Nichols said. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”
Hubble is observing Jupiter daily for about one month, which will enable scientists to create videos that demonstrate the vivid auroras’ movements.
The auroras on Jupiter are endless and several hundreds of times more energetic than auroras on Earth, since the gas giant’s strong magnetic field grabs charged particles from its surroundings.
The scientists say that the new observations and measurements made with Juno and the Hubble telescope will shed light on how the Sun and other sources influence auroras.
Photo credit: NASA/ESA
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