Hubble captures mysterious aurora the size of Earth over Jupiter’s north pole 

Posted: July 2, 2016 by oldbrew in Astronomy, exploration, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]

Aurora on Jupiter [image credit: NASA/ESA]

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is closing in on Jupiter. Here the Daily Mail Online reviews the project from a layman’s perspective. Plus we get some Hubble pics.

On Earth they produce mesmerising riots of colour that light up the night sky around the poles. But our planet is not the only world to enjoy stunning aurora – better known as the northern and southern lights.

Now scientists are hoping to unravel the secrets of the biggest such polar light show in our solar system by focusing their attention on Jupiter’s aurora.

They are using the Hubble Space Telescope to study the giant planet’s atmospheric light shows, which cover an area larger than the entire Earth. New images captured by the telescope reveal the flickers and flashes produced as high energy particles in the solar wind collide with gases over Jupiter’s poles.

This produces vivid ultraviolet displays that cap the giant planet.
Astronomers are combining the observations with data being collected by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it races towards Jupiter.

The probe is currently surfing through the solar wind as it prepares to enter orbit around Jupiter on July 4. It is designed to help scientists unpick how Jupiter’s giant magnetic field interacts with the supersonic solar wind. They also hope to discover what may be causing the magnetic field, as many believe the huge ball of gas may have a solid core.

Dr Jonathan Nichols, a space scientist at the University of Leicester who is taking part in the Jupiter aurora project, said: ‘These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen.
‘It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.’

Hubble is spending a month observing Jupiter daily to help scientists understand how the aurora form on the largest planet in the solar system. By comparing the aurora to data from Juno about the solar wind, it will help scientists unravel the influence the sun has on the polar light show.

The aurora on Jupiter are hundreds of times more energetic than those seen on Earth and occur ceaselessly. On Earth aurora are often fleeting and have become a prized tourist attraction in countries around the North Pole.

While on Earth aurora are caused by solar storms – when highly energetic particles ejected by the sun collide with atoms in our atmosphere to release light – Jupiter’s aurora are also caused by other sources.

The strong magnetic field of the gas giant, which extends up to two million miles from the planet, captures charged particles from its surrounding environment, accelerating them towards the poles.

Debris thrown into space by the volcanoes on one of Jupiter’s moons, Io, is also responsible for causing these aurora.

Full report: Hubble captures mysterious aurora the size of EARTH over Jupiter’s north pole | Daily Mail Online
[includes graphics, images and videos]

  1. oldbrew says:

    Juno Probe Will Run Hellish Radiation Gauntlet at Jupiter Monday

    ‘If all goes according to plan Monday night, Juno will slip into orbit around the giant planet and get its first taste of the solar system’s most intense radiation environment — a region where huge swarms of electrons are accelerated to nearly the speed of light by Jupiter’s magnetic field, which is 20,000 times more powerful than Earth’s.’

    Why Jupiter’s magnetic field is 20,000 times more powerful than Earth’s is not known.

  2. Chaeremon says:

    @oldbrew, Re: Jupiter’s magnetic field

    AFAIK gas does not produce magnetic fields, at least not in the lab. But by consensus scientification the Sun and gas giants can produce anything they like.

  3. oldmanK says:


    If Jupiter is a gas giant, then what did comet Shoemaker-levy slam into?

  4. oldbrew says:

    @ Chaeremon

    OK, no magnetism from gases, but wait:
    ‘Jupiter’s internal magnetic field is generated by electrical currents in the planet’s outer core, which is composed of liquid metallic hydrogen.’ – Wikipedia

    ‘liquid metallic hydrogen’ – say what??

    ‘Metallic hydrogen is a kind of degenerate matter, a phase of hydrogen in which it behaves as an electrical conductor. This phase was predicted theoretically in 1935.[2] It has yet to be unambiguously observed…’

    So we have an 80 year old theory with no scientific evidence or proof. This is what today’s ‘understanding’ of Jupiter’s observed ‘magnetic’ behaviour rests on.

    Hence the probe – trying to get a clue?

  5. oldbrew says:

    oldmanK asks: ‘If Jupiter is a gas giant, then what did comet Shoemaker-levy slam into?’

    Again, it’s all a bit vague but ’emission from heavy atoms such as iron, magnesium and silicon was detected, with abundances consistent with what would be found in a cometary nucleus.’

    More research needed 😎

    Mail report: ‘During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its aurorae to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.’

  6. Chaeremon says:

    @oldbrew, Re: Hence the probe – trying to get a clue? sure! 😎 I hope they gather groundbreaking data for filling the many gaps 🙂

    B.t.w. astronomical size gap: Sun/Ju mass ration ~1000, virtually same as volume ratio; whatever that means for ‘liquid metallic hydrogen’ it must affect both bodies [by reasoning].

  7. oldbrew says:

    The Sun’s magnetic properties are not fully explained either.

    Also: Is Jupiter a failed star?

  8. suricat says:


    IMHO a ‘magnetosphere’ would be generated by the ‘rotational property’ of the planet.

    The ‘ionic properties’ of ‘any compound in motion’ display the characteristic of an ‘electric current’ and, thus, an ‘electric field effect’ can lead to a ‘magnetic field’ when the ‘electric field’ is in motion.

    Best regards, Ray.

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    @suricat; Ray, I get the impression that Astrophysicists and Physicists have a poor grasp on EMF effects, they have a poor grasp on Gravity as well. Maybe they received their education at the same place as Climate Scientists. Oh wait! they did! Very good thing they did not get into the fields of Chemistry, Medical and engineering!
    GOD is NOT a mathematician! GOD works in applied science, you know, the science of things that have to work. Every Chemist and engineer knows that the math from a known point will get you close to your destination, but you will have to adjust the outcome to optimize the results. The universe works on the science of energy within spheres of volume. There is no exact mathematical solution.

    Pi are not square, Pi are round…pg

  10. oldmanK says:

    Re p.g.sharrow’s post, Amen to that.

    I have ultimately formed the impression that God is averse to maths; anyway to numbers that nicely fit. Take for example Pi, Phi, e-the Euler number, that seem to crop up everywhere. You always have to integrate to infinity–and then where is infinity?–and the edge of space??

    After more than forty years tinkering with governors and exciters of power generators I’ve learned two things. Governor mathematical equations have a transient part, which we always changed every time someone decided to make a cup of tea (that transient part has been emasculated from the equations of obliquity). Second, starting a magnetic field to generate a current in the rotating monster always required a starting source, which occasionally failed, or worse, went overboard and stewed the lights.

  11. John Silver says:

    “Debris thrown into space by the volcanoes on one of Jupiter’s moons, Io, is also responsible for causing these aurora.”

    Just a lotta LOL.

  12. Chaeremon says:

    @oldmanK (July 3, 2016 at 8:51 am): fully agree. Re: the edge of space?:

    “They [cosmologists] are using a theory in which space and time are infinite. But they don’t know how to count observers in that infinite universe. So they draw a circle around a finite part of it, and say that nothing outside that part actually exists.” [credits: unknown commenter on technologyreview]

    (sorry, already deleted the comments in their article “Time Likely To End Within Earth”, therefore I cannot give credit to the original comment author, therefore I do NOT link the bastards).

  13. oldbrew says:

    We don’t have the DNA of the universe, if such even exists, but we do have the DNA of life on Earth.
    And there is some maths in it.

    Meanwhile, think of spiral galaxies 😉

  14. p.g.sharrow says:

    interesting I just noticed that the Aurora is not over the pole, but is askew about 10+ degrees. Much like the earth the Jupiter magnetic pole is displaced from the pole of rotation…pg

  15. chris moffatt says:

    “Now scientists are hoping to unravel the secrets of the biggest such polar light show in our solar system by focusing their attention on Jupiter’s aurora.”

    Of course it’s much easier to study the Aurorae on Jupiter via a space probe than to actually study them on Earth.

  16. oldbrew says:

    pg: ‘the Aurora is not over the pole, but is askew about 10+ degrees’

    ‘Jupiter’s magnetic axis, like the Earth, is slightly offset from the rotation axis’

    Earth and Jupiter have opposite magnetic polarities though.

    The link also says: ‘Saturn’s magnetic axis, remarkably, seems to be exactly lined up with its rotation axis, within the accuracy of observations’
    ‘The magnetic axes of Uranus and Neptune, on the other hand, are inclined by about 60° to their rotation axes.’

    ‘Jupiter’s magnetic field is tilted more than its spin axis. Its magnetic field is tilted almost 10°. That’s almost the same as Earth… our magnetic field is tilted 11°.’

  17. oldbrew says:

    ‘Is Jupiter just a ball of gas? Nasa’s Juno spacecraft arrives at ‘biggest, baddest’ planet in solar system’

    Should learn something soon, if the craft survives the exposure to Jupiter’s radiation.

    “It’s a monster, it’s unforgiving, it’s relentless,” said Juno chief scientist Scott Bolton about Jupiter.

    “Juno will be moving at more than 30 miles a second (50 km/s) across auroral structures known to be as narrow as 50 miles (80 km) wide.”

    “Jupiter’s aurora has a power density 10 times greater than Earth’s, and an overall power that is a factor of 100 greater. What we want to know is, how is this system energized?”

  18. oldbrew says:

    “What we still don’t know about Jupiter”

    Then there are the ‘unknown unknowns’ 😎