NASA space probe spots northern lights on Jupiter

Earth is not the only planet with northern lights

Earth is not the only planet with beautiful northern lights

If you thought the northern lights were a rare sight for us earthlings, you may want to think again.

Those beautiful colors most visible in the Arctic and Antarctic are not only found on Earth: Jupiter has northern lights, too.

Northern lights here on Earth result from charged particles from the sun that interact with the earth’s magnetosphere to create that glow that we see. There’s a continuous ring of that light around the earth’s poles -- but we can’t see it here in Michigan until a solar eruption occurs and accelerates the stream of particles, pushing that ring southward.

In the video above, you can see how Jupiter’s auroral ring is nearly identical to the ring near one of Earth’s poles, as visualized by NASA’s Juno space probe.

What’s especially interesting is that while Earth’s aurorae is caused by charged particles coming here in the solar wind, on Jupiter, those charged particles are coming from its volcanically active moon, Io -- which is the most volcanically active world in the Solar System, according to NASA.

Previous missions did not really provide a good look at the Jovian aurorae, but Juno is a polar-orbiting spacecraft, so these images are our first real deep dive into the planet’s northern lights. New revelations on Jupiter, combined with those recently discovered on Mars, have made for an interesting year of space exploration so far!

Related: NASA uses Navajo language to name interest points on Mars

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.