Hubble Captures Saturn's Double Light Show (w/ Video)

Feb 16, 2010
This image was originally black and white and recorded only overall brightness. These brightness values were translated into a range of bluish hues. Such color "maps" can be useful in helping to distinguish subtly varying brightness in an image.

(PhysOrg.com) -- In January and March 2009, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of a rare opportunity to record Saturn when its rings were edge-on, resulting in a unique movie featuring the nearly symmetrical light show at both of the giant planet's poles.

It takes almost thirty years to orbit the Sun, with the opportunity to image both of its poles occurring only twice during that time. The light shows, called aurorae, are produced when electrically charged race along the planet's magnetic field and into the upper atmosphere where they excite atmospheric gases, causing them to glow. Saturn's aurorae resemble the same phenomena that take place at the Earth's poles.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)

The 2009 Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys data used in this movie have allowed astronomers to monitor the behavior of Saturn's poles in the same shot over a sustained period of time and to analyze the planet's northern and southern lights simultaneously.

The northern auroral oval appears to be slightly smaller and more intense than the southern one, implying that Saturn's is not equally distributed across the planet; it is slightly uneven and stronger in the north than the south.

Besides the double aurora show, a number of Saturn's moons, or satellites, are seen passing the disk of their parent planet.

Explore further: PanSTARRS K1, the comet that keeps going

Related Stories

Saturn's aurorae offer stunning double show (w/ Video)

Feb 11, 2010

An enormous and grand ringed planet, Saturn is certainly one of the most intriguing bodies orbiting the Sun. Hubble has now taken a fresh look at the fluttering aurorae that light up both of Saturn's poles.

New Cassini Images Show "Northern Lights" Of Saturn

Aug 04, 2005

New images of Saturn obtained by a University of Colorado at Boulder-led team on June 21 using an instrument on the Cassini spacecraft show auroral emissions at its poles similar to Earth's Northern Lights. ...

Four of Saturn's moons parade by their parent

Mar 17, 2009

On 24 February 2009, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured a photo sequence of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons ...

Recommended for you

PanSTARRS K1, the comet that keeps going

41 minutes ago

Thank you K1 PanSTARRS for hanging in there! Some comets crumble and fade away. Others linger a few months and move on. But after looping across the night sky for more than a year, this one is nowhere near ...

NASA rocket has six minutes to study solar heating

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —On Sept. 30, 2014, a sounding rocket will fly up into the sky – past Earth's atmosphere that obscures certain wavelengths of light from the sun—for a 15-minute journey to study what heats ...

Cassini watches mysterious feature evolve in Titan sea

18 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square ...

User comments : 0