If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, you’ll likely never forget them. These dancing green, red and purple ribbons periodically illuminate the night sky arctic circle down to the northern mid-latitudes as south as New York and London. Similar lights also occur in the Southern Hemisphere, radiating from the region around Antarctica.
The frightening glow is a phenomenon called twilightIt is named after the ancient Greek goddess of dawn. But the origin of the aurora is not divine; Rather, they are caused by strong solar winds that bombard the Earth’s upper atmosphere. as such Photons From these solar winds interacting with atmospheric gases, they shine brightly and are attracted to wonderful 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 at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told Live Science.
but he a land The only place in Solar System Where can you see the aurora borealis?
It turns out that the aurora borealis is not unique to our planet; It is also found on other celestial bodies. These extraterrestrial aurora borealis take on even more beautiful and exotic forms. “When you look at other planets, the ground rules change,” Tom Stallard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the UK told Live Science.
Related: What color is the sunset on other planets?
For example, a file type . has been detected The aurora borealis on Mars (commonly known as the “separate zigzag” aurora), which snakes midway around the Red Planet, despite the fact that Mars has only patchy magnetic field lines. Some aurora borealis turned on Saturn They are generated by weather patterns, according to 2021 research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (Opens in a new tab). And the UranusThe planet’s magnetic field, like the planet itself, is tilted on its axis, causing the aurora borealis to take on complex shapes and form in unexpected regions. “Yes, it’s a mess out there,” O’Donoghue said.
By far, the strongest auroras occur in the solar system Jupiter. These intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation are up to 30 times more powerful than those on Earth, a 2017 study published in the journal. temper nature (Opens in a new tab) have found. But even with all that energy, you probably wouldn’t be able to see Jupiter’s aurora with the naked eye — most of its light is emitted at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. “Infrared It is the largest emitter of Jupiter and Saturn,” O’Donoghue said, “And then, you have visible lightAnd the X rayAnd the radio like that.”
Elsewhere in the solar system, the definition of the aurora borealis is falling apart. Typically, the aurora is thought of as the glowing electromagnetic glow from the solar wind that occurs in a planet’s (or moon’s) atmosphere. Mercury It has no atmosphere to speak of – but it does experience aurora-producing geomagnetic storms. “If you look at the night side of Mercury with an X-ray spectrometer, you’ll see the rocks on the surface glow with X-ray emissions,” Stallard said, “so it’s like the solid state of the aurora borealis.” X-ray spectroscopy detects high-frequency light waves and is an important tool in astronomy.
Likewise, the solar wind does not produce some of Jupiter’s aurora borealis. Instead, they are created by particles being flung into the magnetosphere by planet Earth volcanic Moon, Io, according to NASA (Opens in a new tab).
Now, with next generation tools like James Webb Space TelescopeScientists hope they can even look far enough into the universe to spot the first auroras on exoplanets. Nobody knows what these light shows have in store, but they are sure to be amazing. “Every aurora borealis is fun, weird, and wonderful,” Stallard said.
Originally published on Live Science.
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