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Hubble captures vivid aurorae in Jupiter’s atmosphere

30 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study aurorae — 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, shortly to arrive at the gas giant.

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Understanding the magnetic Sun

30 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The Sun’s magnetic field is responsible for everything from the solar explosions that cause space weather on Earth — such as aurorae — to the interplanetary magnetic field and radiation through which our spacecraft journeying around the solar system must travel. But even now, scientists are not sure exactly where in the Sun the magnetic field is created.

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Tim Peake’s aurora photography masterclass

21 January 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and ESA astronaut Tim Peake shared a series of aurora photographs taken from the International Space Station on 20 January 2016. The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the Sun.

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“Failed stars” host powerful auroral displays

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Brown dwarfs are relatively cool, dim objects that are too massive to be planets, yet they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions. By observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away, researchers have found another feature that makes these so-called failed stars more like supersized planets — they host powerful aurorae near their magnetic poles.

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Sharp-eyed ALMA spots a flare on famous red giant star

30 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have revealed what seems to be a gigantic flare on the surface of Mira, one of the closest and most famous red giant stars in the sky. Activity like this in red giants — similar to what we see in the Sun — comes as a surprise to astronomers.

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Blue aurorae in Mars’ sky visible to the naked eye

30 May 2015 Astronomy Now

For the first time, an international team of scientists from NASA, the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble (IPAG), the European Space Agency and Aalto University in Finland, have predicted that colourful, glowing aurorae can be seen by the naked eye on a terrestrial planet other than Earth — Mars.