If you’re a lucky Earthling, on a picturesque night at the requisite latitude you can sometimes see charged particles streaming in from the sun to energize gases in the atmosphere along magnetic field lines and produce spectacular serpentine green, reds, and blues — an aurora. If you were a Jovian, however, the light show would be a bit more…impressive.
Today, NASA released gorgeous images from the Hubble Space Telescope’s exploration of Jupiter’s auroras. Hubble will be staring at the gas giant over the next few months to track how radiation from the sun and other sources influence aurora-formation. For example, while Earth-based auroras are primarily caused by solar wind, Jupiter’s comparatively gigantic magnetic field also corals particles spewing from Jupiter’s moons.
Unlike Earth’s Borealis and Australis, Jupiter’s auroras are constant, and they are larger than the Earth.
The picture above was produced from far-ultraviolet images taken by the Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Although the mission to catalogue such images will take many more months, NASA, the ESA, and lead scientist Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK have already stitched together fantastic videos showing the movement of the north pole’s auroras over time.
They look like mining a planet in Mass Effect 2 in real life.
The beautiful observations are also timed to give context to NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is currently blasting towards Jupiter at over 130,000 miles per hour. It should reach the planet by July 4th, and will then dive as close as 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) and below the restless surface clouds in order to study the planet’s formation, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.
Together, Hubble and Juno are sure to return more mind-blowing beauty very soon.