Northern lights on Saturn: Hubble captures aurora pictures on Saturn | Science | News


Spectrograph imaging tools aboard the iconic telescope have revealed intense ultraviolet activity on the planet’s North Pole.

The photograph was snapped before and after the summer solstice, when the ringed planet’s North Pole is best positioned for viewing.

Auroras are known on Earth as the Northern Lights near the North Pole and the Southern Lights in the south.

These dancing lights are the result of charged atmospheric particles getting excited by intense solar winds.

Different gases eject protons of light in various hues painting the skies in red, green, purple and blue colours.

But aurora are not unique to Earth and Hubble’s pictures prove the show is just as spectacular in other parts of the solar system.

Hubble’s team of scientists said in a statement: “Other planets in our Solar System have been found to have similar auroras.

“Among them are the four gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

“Because the atmosphere of each of the four outer planets in the Solar System is — unlike the Earth — dominated by hydrogen, Saturn’s auroras can most easily be seen in ultraviolet wavelengths; a part of the electromagnetic spectrum which can only be studied from space.”

The main picture presented by is a composite image of a number of observations made in 2017.

The space telescope also took an incredible close-up of the pulsing aurora, showing how the lights “evolve” over time.

The Hubble scientists said: “The images show a rich variety of emissions with highly variable localised features.

“The variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn, which lasts only about 11 hours.

“On top of this, the northern aurora displays two distinct peaks in brightness — at dawn and just before midnight.

“The latter peak, unreported before, seems specific to the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere at Saturn’s solstice.”

Hubble previously studied Saturn’s aurora back in 2004 and in 2009 when Saturn was in a position that showed off both of its poles at the same time.

The phenomenon of nature gave astronomers insight into the planet’s magnetosphere.

Other than Jupiter, Saturn’s magnetosphere is the biggest known one in the solar system.

The magnetosphere is the area of space around a planet where the magnetic fields dominate.

Hubble’s observations of Saturn were coordinated with the retired Cassini space mission as it dove into Saturn’s atmosphere for one last spectacular death dive.



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