Release 56 of 57

Hubble Provide Complete View of Jupiter's Auroras

Release date: Jan 7, 1998 12:00 AM (EST)
Release type: American Astronomical Society Meeting

The Hubble telescope has captured a complete view of Jupiter's northern and southern auroras. Images taken in ultraviolet light show both auroras, the oval-shaped objects in the inset photos.

The "curtains" of auroral light extend several hundred miles above the edge of Jupiter. Images of Earth's auroral curtains, taken from the space shuttle, have a similar appearance. Jupiter's auroras are viewed against a backdrop of the entire planet. The auroras are brilliant curtains of light in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. Jovian auroral storms, like Earth's, develop when electrically charged particles trapped in the magnetic field surrounding the planet spiral inward at high energies toward the north and south magnetic poles. When these particles hit the upper atmosphere, they excite atoms and molecules there, causing them to glow (the same process acting in street lights).