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Although Jupiter is best known for its colorful atmospheric storms such as the Great Red Spot, this image shows that the dancing light of the planet’s auroras can dazzle, too.
In the Hubble composite photo, taken in visible and ultraviolet light, the characteristic rings of auroral light extend several hundred miles above Jupiter’s north pole, crowning it like a halo. Jupiter’s auroras are high-energy activities that emit ultraviolet light. These observations can only be conducted from space because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most ultraviolet light.
Auroras on Earth may last for a few hours, but on Jupiter they never end. They are powered, in part, by a constant flow of charged particles from Jupiter’s moon Io, known for its numerous, large volcanoes. A barrage of charged particles unleashed by the sun during solar storms also reaches the planet.
Hubble made the observations of Jupiter’s aurora in support of NASA’s Juno mission. The Hubble and Juno observations will help astronomers to better understand how the sun and other sources influence these spectacles of light. Learn more at HubbleSite's NewsCenter.
A. Simon (NASA/GSFC) and the OPAL team