Saturn's aurora


Beautiful lights sometimes seen in the night sky in northern and southern regions of the Earth are caused by the interaction of the solar wind - a stream of charged particles escaping the Sun - and our planet's magnetic field and atmosphere.

The Earth's magnetic field traps some of the particles and sends them on a collision course with molecules in the atmosphere. As a result of these repeated, tiny crashes, energy is released in the form of light.

Auroras have been observed on other planets such as Saturn and Jupiter.

Photo: Saturn's aurora taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA, ESA, J. Clarke and G. Bacon)

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Saturn's aurora

About Aurora

The solar wind's assault on the Earth can be easily seen.

About Aurora

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky (from the Latin word aurora, "sunrise" or the Roman goddess of dawn), predominantly seen in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions.[nb 1] Aurorae are caused by cosmic rays, solar wind and magnetospheric plasma interacting with the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere). Their charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, enter the atmosphere from above causing ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents, and consequent light emissions. Auroras caused by protons are sometimes referred to as proton arcs. Incidental protons can also produce emissions as hydrogen atoms after gaining an electron from the atmosphere.

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