Ever since humans have been able to glimpse Jupiter’s swirling storms and mysterious red spot (twice as wide as planet Earth), the planet has been regarded as one of unusual beauty.
Now the powerful Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to capture images of another stunning sight: Jupiter’s luminous auroras.
Caused by high-energy particles colliding with the planet’s atmosphere, the auroras are seen lighting up Jupiter’s North Pole.
The observation of the vivid glows coincides with the arrival of the Juno probe, which is expected to enter the planet’s orbit in early July.
The spacecraft will spend the next 20 months studying the planet’s solar winds from just above the clouds.
Jupiter’s aurora displays are more intense than those seen on Earth, and are caused by solar winds along with charged particles from the planet’s volcanic moon.
Jupiter’s light shows are also constant, due to Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.
Jonathan Nichols, principal investigator of the study said: “These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen.”
Data from both Juno and Hubble is expected to give astronomers a better understanding of the sun’s influence on auroras, as well as getting to know more about the planet’s microwaves, atmosphere and magnetic field.
“It almost seems,” Nichols said, “as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno”.