News Release Archive:

News Release 169 of 1006

April 19, 2012 12:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2012-21

Hubble Spots Aurorae on the Planet Uranus


Image: Hubble Spots Aurorae on the Planet Uranus

Hubble Spots Aurorae on the Planet UranusSTScI-PRC2012-21

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These are among the first clear images, taken from the distance of Earth, to show aurorae on the planet Uranus. Aurorae are produced when high-energy particles from the Sun cascade along magnetic field lines into a planet's upper atmosphere. This causes the planet's atmospheric gasses to fluoresce. The ultraviolet images were taken at the time of heightened solar activity in November 2011 that successively buffeted the Earth, Jupiter, and Uranus with a gusher of charged particles from the Sun. Because Uranus' magnetic field is inclined 59 degrees to its spin axis, the auroral spots appear far from the planet's north and south poles. This composite image combines 2011 Hubble observations of the aurorae in visible and ultraviolet light, 1986 Voyager 2 photos of the cyan disk of Uranus as seen in visible light, and 2011 Gemini Observatory observations of the faint ring system as seen in infrared light.

For more information, contact:

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.

Laurent Lamy
Observatory of Paris, Meudon Cedex, France

Object Name: Uranus

Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated

Credit: NASA, ESA, and L. Lamy (Observatory of Paris, CNRS, CNES)