Release 713 of 1,091

Satellite Footprints Seen in Jupiter Aurora

Release date: Dec 14, 2000 12:00 PM (EST)

In this Hubble telescope picture, a curtain of glowing gas is wrapped around Jupiter's north pole like a lasso. This curtain of light, called an aurora, is produced when high-energy electrons race along the planet's magnetic field and into the upper atmosphere where they excite atmospheric gases, causing them to glow. The aurora resembles the same phenomenon that crowns Earth's polar regions. But this Hubble image, taken in ultraviolet light, also shows the glowing "footprints" of three of Jupiter's largest moons: Io, Ganymede, and Europa. Over the next two months, Jupiter's aurora will be scrutinized by two observatories: the Hubble telescope and the Cassini spacecraft, which will fly by the planet on its voyage to Saturn.