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Jupiter Gallery

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Stunning light shows in a planets atmosphere Featured Jupiter Print

Stunning light shows in a planets atmosphere

Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras -- stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere -- on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA's Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using Hubble's ultraviolet capabilities. The extraordinary vivid glows shown in the new observations are known as auroras. They are created when high-energy particles enter a planet's atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas. As well as producing beautiful images, this program aims to determine how various components of Jupiter's auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun. This observation program is perfectly timed as NASA's Juno spacecraft is currently in the solar wind near Jupiter and will enter the orbit of the planet in early July 2016. While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself; a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe. "These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen", said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, U.K., and principal investigator of the study. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno." Credits: NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)

© NASA

Jupiters interior, artwork Featured Jupiter Print

Jupiters interior, artwork

Jupiter's interior. Cutaway computer artwork showing the interior structure of the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the solar system, with a mass two and a half times that of all the other planets put together. A rocky core (small sphere, centre) about the size of Earth lies at its centre, where the temperature is 20, 000-30, 000 degrees Celsius. Around the core is a vast layer of liquid hydrogen (blue), which accounts for most of the planet's mass. The inner part of the hydrogen layer (light blue) is under such high pressure that it acts like molten metal. Uppermost is a thin atmosphere of hydrogen (dark blue), water and ice (yellow), ammonium hydrosulphide (brown) and ammonia crystals (red)

© CARLOS CLARIVAN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Muonionalusta meteorite, micrograph Featured Jupiter Print

Muonionalusta meteorite, micrograph

Dark field micrograph of the surfcace of the iron fine octahedrite type meteorite Muonionalusta, found in Sweden. The Widmanstatten pattern of lines on the newly-cut surface are produced by the edges of crystals in the meteorite. The pattern was formed about 1 billion years ago when the iron mass solidified in one of several minor planets between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. These planets have since been disrupted to form the asteroid belt. The fragments resulting from collisions between asteroids are deflected into orbits that cross the path of the Earth. Analysis of meteorites can provide information on the composition of the early solar system. Object size of this close-up: approx. 2, 5 mm

© PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY