Hubble has for the first time spotted Aurorae on the distant ice giant Uranus. In the image below you can see the turquoise disk of the planet has a bright ‘blotch’.
An aurora is produced when a stream of charged particles from the solar wind (the material ejected from the Sun) collides with a planet’s magnetic field (more properly called its magnetosphere) and excites the particles within the atmosphere casing them to glow. This glow is what we observe as the aurora.
On Earth aurorae with a blue or red colour are due to excited nitrogen, whilst green or a redish brown hue is due to excited oxygen. The aurorae can dance across the sky in waves of coloured light and whilst some last for a few brief minutes others can remain active for hours depending on the conditions creating them – solar storms for example can create very powerful aurorae.
Aurorae have been observed on other planets as well, particularly Jupiter and Saturn; both of which have prominent auroral systems. Those present in Uranus’ atmosphere are considerably fainter and appear to last only for a few short minutes at a time.
These images represent the first observation of Uranus aurorae, with previous data collected directly during the Voyager 2 flyby in 1986.
These new observations should help to reveal more about Uranus’ magnetic field, which we currently know little about.
You can read more here
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