Planets

Stunning Aurora Seen Over Jupiter

The giant planet's magnetic field spawns "Northern Lights" far more powerful than displays on Earth.

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As only the second robotic spacecraft prepares to put itself into orbit around Jupiter, NASA on Thursday released a stunning image of the planet's ever-present aurora.

Juno, which is due to put itself into an unprecedented polar orbit around the giant planet late on Monday, will be looking far deeper into Jupiter's atmosphere than any previous probes.

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To support the upcoming Juno studies, scientists have been using the Hubble Space Telescope for a series of ultraviolet observations so they can learn more about how the aurora change in response to variations in the solar wind.

Like on Earth, aurora form when charged particles in space get trapped and sped up by a planet's magnetic field lines. When the particles hit the atmosphere near a planet's magnetic poles, the particles glow like gases in a fluorescent light bulb.

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Jupiter's magnetosphere is 20,000 stronger than Earth's, so the planet's auroras are much more powerful than our own Northern and Southern lights.

The image released on Thursday is a composite of three exposures taken by Hubble's instruments in April 2014 and May and June 2016.

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