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Hubble's image of Jupiter's aurora
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NASA

Hubble's auroral images of Jupiter
News story originally written on October 17, 1996

Scientists studying Jupiter's auroral regions are using images from Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 to map the planet's immense magnetic field and better understand the auroral phenomena.

Aurorae occur when charged particles (electrons, protons, and positive ions) are trapped in the magnetic field surrounding a planet. Traveling along the magnetic field line towards the north and south poles, they collide with molecules and atoms in the planet's upper atmosphere. These collisions transfer energy, thus exciting the atoms, which in turn release this extra energy in the form of light.

Detailed images from Hubble are allowing scientists to watch small-scale, rapid changes in the auroral intensity and motion, and pinpoint the effects of emissions from Jupiter's moon Io.


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