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News Release 685 of 948

January 7, 1998 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-1998-04

Hubble Provide Complete View of Jupiter's Auroras

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

January 7, 1998: 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).

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Credits: John Clarke (University of Michigan), and NASA.

Co-investigators: Joe Ajello, Kent Tobiska, and John Trauger (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory); Gilda Ballester (University of Michigan); Lotfi Ben Jaffel (IAP Paris); Jack Connerney (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center); Jean-Claude Gerard (University of Liege, Belgium); Randy Gladstone; and Hunter Waite (Southwest Research Institute) Wayne Pryor (University of Colorado) Daniel Rego (University College, London).