The Hubble Space Telescope captured the incredibly dramatic auroras on Jupiter. Hubble was sent into space in 1990, and since then it had been serviced and upgraded multiple times.
Jupiter is already famous for its colorful storms, most of them taking place near the Red Spot. As Jupiter has a magnetic field similar to the one on Earth, it can also produce the phenomenon.
On our planet, auroras are a display of light mostly encountered in the North and South Poles.
The solar wind disturbs the magnetosphere, and the electrons and protons precipitate into the exosphere. Soon after arriving there, their energy is lost, and the reactions in the atmosphere emit lights in different colors and complexity.
In comparison with what happens on Earth, the Jupiter’s auroras are created by charged particles that come from the solar wind, but also from the planet’s moons. The powerful magnetic field of Jupiter makes the auroras be almost always visible for space observatories.
Jupiter’s dramatic auroras are not only much larger in size, but also more energetic. Moreover, they never stop, as they are created by a continuous flow of space particles getting mixed with its magnetic field.
The images captured by Hubble show the auroras taking place in the north pole of the planet. The pictures are just a small part of the data collected by the telescope, and scientists prepare for months of work in analyzing Jupiter’s upper atmosphere and its creations.
Scientists are interested in finding out how Jupiter’s auroras change with the solar wind. Juno will carry instruments that will analyze the charged particles. In this setting, Hubble is also important, its distance to the planet permits larger scale observations.
The studies are conducted by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas with the help of the California Institute of Technology and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The New Frontier Program that manages Juno’s mission is overseen by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
As for Hubble’s mission, after almost three decades in space, its duties will be taken over by the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA delayed the launch of the new spacecraft until 2018.
While Hubble remains in the low-Earth orbit, the James Webb Space Telescope will be positioned much farther away, on the opposite side of the moon.
Hubble obtained a mission extension of five more years. The spacecraft has low costs of operation, and its images and measurements have proven to be incredibly important for science. Since its launch, the telescope was the source of more than 10,000 scientific studies.
Image Source: Flickr
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