This composite video illustrates the auroras on Jupiter relative to their position on the giant planet. As on Earth, auroras are produced by the interaction of a planet’s magnetic field with its atmosphere. The Jupiter auroras observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are some of the most active and brightest ever caught by Hubble, reaching intensities over a thousand times brighter than those seen on Earth. Hubble’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light captures the glow of the auroras above Jupiter’s cloud top.
The auroras were photographed on May 19, 2016, during a series of far-ultraviolet-light observations taking place as NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaches and enters into orbit around Jupiter. The aim of the program is to determine how Jupiter’s auroras respond to changing conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted from the sun.
The full-color disk of Jupiter in this video was separately photographed at a different time by Hubble’s Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, a long-term Hubble project that annually captures global maps of the outer planets. Auroras are formed when charged particles in the space surrounding the planet are accelerated to high energies along the planet’s magnetic field. When the particles hit the atmosphere near the magnetic poles, they cause it to glow like gases in a fluorescent light fixture.
Jupiter’s magnetosphere is 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s. These observations will reveal how the solar system’s largest and most powerful magnetosphere behaves.
Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Nichols (University of Leicester), and G. Bacon (STScI) Acknowledgment: A. Simon (NASA/GSFC)