NASA has released a photo showing glowing auroras on Jupiter.
The image was taken using the Hubble Space Telescope and shows the auroras, which are bigger than Earth, lighting up the gas giant’s poles.
While Earth also has auroras, they’re caused by solar storms as opposed to Jupiter’s, which are caused by the massive planet pulling in charged particles from its surroundings as well as the solar winds.
"These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen", says Jonathan Nichols from Britain's University of Leicester and principal investigator of the study. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno."
The Juno space probe is days away from a rocket burn that will insert the spacecraft into Jupiter’s orbit later this month.
The probe recently detected odd sounds coming from Jupiter, which NASA describes as a bow shock.
“The bow shock is analogous to a sonic boom,” researcher William Kurth of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, said in a NASA news release. “The solar wind blows past all the planets at a speed of about a million miles per hour, and where it hits an obstacle, there’s all this turbulence.”
During its mission, Juno will make 37 “close approaches” to Jupiter, and each one could imperil the craft. For example, under the clouds, there is a layer of hydrogen under so much pressure that it conducts electricity. That, along with the planet’s fast rotation [one day on Jupiter is only 10 hours long], creates a strong magnetic field, creating what NASA calls the “harshest radiation environment in the solar system.”
Juno is fitted with “radiation-hardened electrical wiring and shielding” as well as a unique titanium vault that protects the probe’s most vital equipment, such as the flight computer. The vault is so strong that it will reduce radiation exposure by 800 times. Without it, “Juno's electronic brain would more than likely fry before the end of the very first flyby of the planet.”
To further mitigate the exposure, Juno’s orbit around the planet will be unusual, as described in the video below.