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Hubble captures stunning shots of Jupiter auroras

This image combines an image taken with Hubble Space Telescope in the optical (taken in spring 2014) and observations of its auroras in the ultraviolet, taken in 2016.

NASA, ESA

With the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are getting new glimpses of a stunning light show taking place in Jupiter's skies.

Hubble used its ultraviolet capabilities to take some impressive shots of auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere. NASA and the ESA (European Space Agency) released the images Thursday.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, and if one were to name a recognizable feature of the gaseous giant, it would undoubtedly be the large, iconic red spot that swirls in the center of the planet. However, the auroras are giving that spot some competition.

"These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen," Jonathan Nichols, a researcher at the University Leicester and principal investigator of the study, said in a Hubble press release. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno."

Nichols was referring to NASA's Juno spacecraft, which is currently en route to carry out its observations of Jupiter. The patriotic spacecraft is scheduled to reach its target on July 4.

Jupiter's striking auroras are formed when high energy particles enter a planet's atmosphere near its magnetic poles. These particles then smash into atoms of gas, creating the kinds of impressive light shows captured by Hubble and seen here around Earth's poles, according to the release.

Hubble is making daily observations of Jupiter to reveal changes in the auroras for about a month.

So, how do these light shows measure up with Earth's equivalent, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis?

Well, they are hundreds of times more energetic than the auroras on Earth, and they also never stop. While Earth's auroras are caused by solar storms that release charged particles that interact with gases in our atmosphere, Jupiter's auroras are generated by charged particles that are pulled in by the large planet's magnetic field.

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