If you’ve been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, this is an experience you’ll probably never forget. These dancing green, red and purple bands of light periodically illuminate the night sky from arctic circle down to mid-northern latitudes all the way south to New York and London. Similar lights appear in the southern hemisphere, emanating from the area around Antarctica.
The ominous brilliance is a phenomenon called Aurora, named after the ancient Greek goddess of dawn. But the origin of the radiance is not divine; rather, they are caused by vigorous solar winds bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Like photons from these solar winds interact with the atmospheric gases, they glow in brilliant colors and are drawn in fantastic shapes along the magnetic lines of our planet. “Oxygen is red and green, and blue or purple is nitrogen,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told Live Science.
But it is The Earth the only place in solar system where can you see the glow?
It turns out that the radiance is not unique to our planet; they also exist on other celestial bodies. And these extraterrestrial radiances acquire even more beautiful and exotic forms. “When you look at other planets, the basic rules change,” Tom Stalard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.
Connected: What color is the sunset of other planets?
For example, a recently discovered species radiance of Mars (known as the “twisting discrete” aurora) snakes around the Red Planet, despite the fact that Mars has only uneven lines of magnetic field. There are some glows Saturn are generated by meteorological models, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Letters for geophysical research (opens in a new section). And UraniumThe planet’s magnetic field, like the planet itself, is tilted around its axis, causing auroras to take on complex shapes and form in unexpected regions. “Yes, there’s a mess,” O’Donoghue said.
So far, the most powerful auroras in the solar system appear on Jupiter. These intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation are up to 30 times stronger than those on Earth, a 2017 study in the journal nature (opens in a new section) found. But even with all this energy, you probably won’t be able to see Jupiter’s glow with the naked eye – most of its light is emitted at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. “infrared is the largest emitter of Jupiter and Saturn, “said O’Donoghue,” and then you have Visible light, X-rayand radio too. “
Elsewhere in the solar system, the very definition of the aurora is falling apart. Auroras are generally considered to be incandescent electromagnetic light produced by the solar wind that appears in the planet’s (or moon’s) atmosphere. mercury there is no atmosphere to talk about – but it is experiencing geomagnetic storms producing aurora borealis. “If you look at the night side of Mercury with an X-ray spectrometer, you’ll see the rock on the surface glow with X-rays,” Stallard said. “It’s like aurora borealis in the solid state.” The X-ray spectrometer detects many high-frequency light waves and is an important instrument in astronomy.
Similarly, some of Jupiter’s radiances are not produced by the solar winds. Instead, they are generated by particles ejected into the magnetosphere from the planet volcanic moon, Yo, according to NASA (opens in a new section).
Now, with next generation tools like James Webb Space Telescope, scientists hope they may even be able to peek far enough into the universe to discover the first auroras of exoplanets. No one knows what these light shows offer, but it will certainly be spectacular. “Every glow is interesting, weird and wonderful,” Stallard said.
Originally published in Live Science.