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This Is What The Northern Lights Look Like On Jupiter

Pretty beautiful and massive.

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The Hubble Space Telescope has taken this beautiful image of an aurora – like our own Northern Lights – at the north pole of Jupiter.

An image combining shots by the Hubble Space Telescope taken in the optical (from spring 2014) and observations of its auroras in the ultraviolet (from 2016).
NASA, ESA

An image combining shots by the Hubble Space Telescope taken in the optical (from spring 2014) and observations of its auroras in the ultraviolet (from 2016).

The image of the aurora was taken in ultraviolet light and put on top of a 2014 picture of the planet itself taken in visible light.

Jupiter is pretty massive – to give you a sense of scale, about three Earths could fit in that red patch to the bottom-left. (It's called the "Great Red Spot", and it's a huge storm which has been going on for centuries.)

Auroras are caused by charged particles from the Sun hitting a planet's magnetic field. Here on Earth they can look pretty spectacular.

Nick Russill / CC / Via commons.wikimedia.org

And they look even more amazing from space.

NASA / YouTube / Via youtube.com

This isn't the first time that auroras have been seen on Jupiter. Earlier this year, NASA released images of a solar storm hitting the planet.

Joseph DePasquale, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Chandra X-ray Center

But it's one of the most spectacular appearances, according to one of the researchers.

"These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen," Jonathan Nichols of Leicester University, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.

It's good timing, as well, because a NASA spaceship called Juno is just approaching Jupiter now. It will be entering orbit around the planet in early July.

Artist's impression of Juno.
NASA / JPL / Via nasa.gov

Artist's impression of Juno.

And while Hubble is observing the auroras, Juno will be measuring the solar wind – the charged particles that cause the auroras – up close. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno," says Nichol.