We Can’t See This *On* The Earth

aurora uvThis is the first image of Saturn’s aurora that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997 when Saturn was 1.3 billion km from Earth. Saturn’s auroral displays are caused by an energetic wind of charged particles from the Sun that sweeps over the planet. Unlike the Earth’s, Saturn’s aurora is only seen in ultraviolet light. Because the UV doesn’t penetrate our atmosphere, Saturn’s aurora can only be observed from space.

Image Credit: NASA

Aurora on Saturn

aurora uvThis is the first image of Saturn’s aurora that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997 when Saturn was 1.3 billion km from Earth. Saturn’s auroral displays are caused by an energetic wind of charged particles from the Sun that sweeps over the planet. Unlike the Earth’s, Saturn’s aurora is only seen in ultraviolet light. Because the UV doesn’t penetrate our atmosphere, Saturn’s aurora can only be observed from space.

Image Credit: NASA

Aurora

IDL TIFF fileThis isn’t a picture of the Earth. It’s Jupiter as seen in ultraviolet light by the Hubble Space Telescope. Just as on Earth, Jupiter’s aurorae are curtains of light resulting from high energy electrons following the planet’s magnetic field into the upper atmosphere. Collisions with atmospheric atoms and molecules produce the observed light.

Image Credit: NASA

Saturn in UV

Saturn in UV

In 2009, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of a rare opportunity to record Saturn when its rings were edge-on to the Earth allowing a simultaneous view of both of the giant planet’s poles. It takes Saturn about 29-1/2 years to orbit the Sun; the opportunity to see the aurorae at both of its poles together occurs only twice during that time.

The aurorae are produced when electrically charged particles race along the planet’s magnetic field and strike the upper atmosphere where they excite atmospheric gases, causing them to glow. Saturn’s aurorae resemble those that take place at the Earth’s poles.

Image Credit: NASA

North America at Night

The Suomi-NPP satellite took this picture of North America at night on 8 October. The waves that seem to be rolling across Quebec and Ontario in the upper half of the image are the Aurora Borealis or northern lights. The impressive aurorae seen during the past few days are caused by strong geomagnetic storms triggered by a solar coronal mass ejection on 4 and 5 October striking Earth’s magnetic field three days later. The curtains of light, are formed as charged particles accelerated in the magnetosphere excite oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

Image Credit: NASA