Rings, Auroras and Uranus

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Lamy / Observatoire de Paris

This is a composite image of Uranus by Voyager 2 and two different observations made by Hubble — one for the ring and one for the auroras.

Ever since Voyager 2 beamed home spectacular images of the planets in the 1980s, planet-lovers have been hooked on auroras on other planets. Auroras are caused by streams of charged particles like electrons that come from various origins such as solar winds, the planetary ionosphere, and moon volcanism. They become caught in powerful magnetic fields and are channeled into the upper atmosphere, where their interactions with gas particles, such as oxygen or nitrogen, set off spectacular bursts of light.

The auroras on Jupiter and Saturn are well-studied, but not much is known about the auroras of the giant ice planet Uranus. In 2011, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope became the first Earth-based telescope to snap an image of the auroras on Uranus. In 2012 and 2014 a team led by an astronomer from Paris Observatory took a second look at the auroras using the ultraviolet capabilities of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) installed on Hubble. … (Hubble)

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Lamy / Observatoire de Paris

%d bloggers like this: