Hubble’s keen eye has been added to Voyager 2’s previous images of Uranus to provide a glimpse of what the planet’s auroras look like.
Helpfully descried as a “giant ice planet”, Uranus is one of the more peculiar bodies in our solar system, primarily due to our lack of knowledge on the seventh planet from the sun.
However, now we’re learning a little bit more, thanks to composite images of auroras on Uranus, as older views of the planet are complemented by Hubble’s modern ones.
In 2011, Hubble became the first Earth-based telescope to snap an image of the Uranus auroras, with two subsequent studies, led by an astronomer from Paris Observatory, revealing just how spectacular an event they are.
The team tracked the interplanetary shocks caused by two powerful bursts of solar wind travelling from the sun to Uranus, and then used Hubble to capture their effect on the planet. As a result, they observed the most intense auroras ever seen on the planet.
The team also rediscovered Uranus’s long-lost magnetic poles, which were lost shortly after their discovery by Voyager 2 in 1986, due to uncertainties in measurements and the featureless planet surface.
Auroras are created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles. They collide with atoms of gas and produce remarkable light shows, as seen annually on Earth.
A little less than one year ago, “dramatic” auroras on the poles of Jupiter were captured by Hubble, showcasing the true scale of our next celebrity planet.
To go along with the Great Red Spot – a swirling storm below Jupiter’s equator – these auroras are added weather examples that will go some way towards our understanding of a truly fascinating planet.
Given that the make-up of Jupiter’s atmosphere is quite different to ours, with immense storms charged with electricity, NASA researchers are curious as to what differences there are throughout the weather cycle.
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An image taken of Uranus in 1986, as it neared the edge of our solar system, is still offering fascinating insights into the planetary composition of our nearest and dearest neighbours.
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