APR 12, 2017 05:21 AM PDT

Hubble Spots Uranus' Version of the Aurora Borealis

Most are probably familiar with the Northern Lights on Earth, which are known to the scientific community as the Aurora Borealis. These are the incredible light shows that are caused by charged particles from the Sun slamming into our planet’s magnetic field, and is a direct result of solar wind having an influence over the Earth.

On the other hand, Earth isn’t the only planet in the solar system that can experience visual side effects from these charge particles slamming into its magnetic field; so can others. The phenomenon has also been observed on both Jupiter and Saturn, and some of Hubble’s latest images even show it occurring on Uranus.

New composite images shared by NASA show auroras occuring on Uranus' surface.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Lamy / Observatoire de Paris

NASA shared these composite images noting that they are a combination of data collected by the Voyager 2 spacecraft from the 1980’s as well as the Hubble Space Telescope’s ultraviolet light camera known as Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) in modern times.

For what it’s worth, we have documented these auroras on other planets quite frequently, but not so much on Uranus. That said, these images are quite valuable to the scientific community because they allow us to gaze upon something we don’t have much information about and to learn more about how auroras occur there.

Related: Evidence discovered for more moons orbiting Uranus

Auroras can occur from charged particles, and this much we know, but sometimes the source of said charged particles isn’t clear. The Sun is the most common source of these charged particles, but it’s not the only source. As NASA indicates in their statement, other sources include the planetary ionosphere and volcanic activity on a planet’s moons – Uranus has 27.

The observations made with Voyager 2 and Hubble Space Telescope allowed NASA scientists to come up with the conclusion that the auroras actually rotate along with the planet. They also came with the added benefit of allowing scientists to pinpoint where exactly the planet’s poles are located.

We lost track of Uranus’ poles long ago due to the planet having such a bland surface that there really aren’t any reference points to speak of. Voyager 2 reportedly found them back in 1986, but the measurements were unclear, so scientists were forced back to the drawing board.

It would appear that although Hubble is getting old, it’s still an active performer in our Solar System and beyond. Soon, however, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will replace it as the modern observer of the universe. It’s slated to launch some time in 2018.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 17, 2018
Should We Build a Space Elevator?
Rockets are the primary means of sending cargo to and from space, but chemical burns are incredibly expensive, and this has some firms looking into alterna...
NOV 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 25, 2018
NASA's RRM3 Will Bring Us One Step Closer to In-Space Refueling
Possessing the ability to refuel spacecraft in outer space isn’t just something you’ve seen in your favorite science fiction movies, it’s...
DEC 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 02, 2018
NASA is Learning More About InSight's Landing Site Post-Landing
Following a six-month journey through space, NASA’s InSight spacecraft made a safe-and-sound landing on Mars’ barren surface last week. Comment...
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
After a Slight Delay, SpaceX's Christmas Delivery Arrives at the ISS
Three days after the official launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday with a sp...
DEC 24, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 24, 2018
Saturn Won't Have its Rings Forever, So Enjoy Them While They Last
If you’ve been following the news lately, then you might’ve heard that Saturn is losing its rings more quickly than astronomers ever realized....
DEC 30, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 30, 2018
Are Some Super-Earth Exoplanets Rich in Rubies and Sapphires?
Astronomers are always peeking through the lenses of their fancy space telescopes to learn more about the universe around us. One thing that captivates the...
Loading Comments...