Hubble and Voyager 2 combine for stunning Uranus aurora images

11 Apr 201715 Shares

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

A composite image of Uranus by Voyager 2, and two different observations made by Hubble — one for the ring and one for the auroras. Image: ESA/Hubble and NASA, L Lamy/Observatoire de Paris

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

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.

Uranus

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.

Astronomers are using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Image: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols

Astronomers are using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Image: NASA/ESA/J Nichols

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.

Launched in 1977, less than a fortnight apart, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2’s impact on scientific discovery continues to this day.

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.

A 2016 study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet’s rings.

Uranus is seen in this false-color view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet's faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility. Image: NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona)

Uranus is seen in this false-colour view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet’s faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility. Image: NASA/Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

66

DAYS

4

HOURS

26

MINUTES

Buy your tickets now!

Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com