On the night of Oct. 8, 2015, a photographer in Harstad, Norway…

On the night of Oct. 8, 2015, a photographer in Harstad, Norway captured this image of the dancing northern lights. Auroras are created when fast-moving, magnetic solar material strikes Earth’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere. This collision rattles the magnetosphere in an event called a geomagnetic storm, sending trapped charged particles zooming down magnetic field lines towards the atmosphere, where they collide brilliantly with molecules in the air, creating auroras.

Though many geomagnetic storms are associated with clouds of solar material that explode from the sun in an event called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, this storm was caused by an especially fast stream of solar wind.

‘Geomagnetic storms caused by high-speed solar wind streams aren’t uncommon,’ said Leila Mays, a space physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. ‘Near solar minimum’”when solar activity like CMEs are less frequent’”these fast streams are actually the most common cause of geomagnetic storms that create auroras.’

Object Names: Auroras in Norway

Image Credit: Johnny Henriksen/ Spaceweather.com

Text Credit:  Sarah Frazier, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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Jupiter has auroras. Like Earth, the magnetic field of the gas…

Jupiter has auroras. Like Earth, the magnetic field of the gas giant funnels charged particles released from the Sun onto the poles. As these particles strike the atmosphere, electrons are temporarily knocked away from existing gas molecules. Electric force attracts these electrons back. As the electrons recombine to remake neutral molecules, auroral light is emitted. In the featured recently released composite image by the Hubble Space Telescope taken in ultraviolet light, the aurorae appear as annular sheets around the pole. Unlike Earth’s aurorae, Jupiter’s aurorae include several bright streaks and dots. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is visible on the lower right. Recent aurorae on Jupiter have been particularly strong – a fortunate coincide with the arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter last week. Juno was able to monitor the Solar Wind as it approached Jupiter, enabling a better understanding of aurorae in general, including on Earth.

Object Names: Aurorae on Jupiter

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Nasa, Esa, Juno Spacecraft

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