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See Jupiter's auroras, bigger than Earth, 'throwing a fireworks party'

The Hubble Space Telescope is spying breathtaking auroras on Jupiter. The Juno spacecraft rides amid the solar wind that creates them while on its way to the gas giant.

The auroras near Jupiter's pole cover an area larger than our entire planet.
NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)

While NASA's Juno spacecraft is measuring the solar wind on its way to enter orbit around Jupiter next week, the Hubble Space Telescope has been capturing some magnificent images of what happens when those high-energy particles from the sun collide with the giant planet. The resulting auroras are not only out of this world, but literally much bigger than this world.

The brilliant auroras seen in the image above cover an area bigger than Earth and are also hundreds of times more energetic than our own aurora borealis or aurora australis. Unlike the dancing northern or southern lights here that tend to be seasonal, auroras on Jupiter never stop. The gas giant's magnetic field is so strong it's constantly sucking up charged particles from the space around it and even some of its moons.

"These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen," Jonathan Nichols, from the University of Leicester, said in a release. Nichols is principal investigator of the study. "It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a fireworks party for the imminent arrival of Juno."

That would be quite an accommodating welcome of such a small spacecraft from a gargantuan planet. Maybe don't tell Juno that when you look at the planet in an infrared view of the planet, it looks like a less-than-welcoming hellish inferno.