The Hubble telescope has captured brilliant blue auroras on Jupiter’s atmosphere.
The massive telescope took the images, released on June 30, just before NASA’S Juno spacecraft will begin its orbit around Jupiter on July 4.
Using its Space Telescope Imaging Spectograph, Hubble took far ultraviolet images of fluorescent blue lights shimmering on Jupiter’s poles, known as auroras:
Auroras occur when high-energy particles entering a planet’s atmosphere approach its magnetic poles and collide with gas atoms. On Jupiter, they take place because the planet’s strong magnetic field grabs charged particles from the solar wind, as well as particles ejected from the its moon Io, which is covered in volcanoes.
Jupiter’s auroras cover areas bigger than the Earth, and are “hundreds of times more energetic” than those on Earth, NASA explained in a press release. Unlike auroras on planet Earth — which are visible from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland — Jupiter’s auroras never stop.
NASA doesn’t just want to simply capture pretty photos; it hopes to gather more information on how the sun influences auroras. In order to do so, Hubble will study how Jupiter’s auroras respond to solar wind, the stream of charged particles released by the sun.
Hubble will work with Juno, which will study the properties of solar wind itself.