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: NKorea launch pad expansion 'nearing completion'

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

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

51 minutes ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

1 hour ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Voyager map details Neptune's strange moon Triton

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" ...

How the sun caused an aurora this week

4 hours ago

On the evening of Aug. 20, 2014, the International Space Station was flying past North America when it flew over the dazzling, green blue lights of an aurora. On board, astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this ...

User comments : 0