Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saturn's auroras

Space weather. Cool stuff.

As on Earth, electrical fields above Saturn interact with atmospheric chemicals to produce shimmering lights above the polar regions.

Now NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured video of Saturn's aurora.

Saturn's flicking polar lights dance higher above the planet – 750 miles (1,200 km) – than any known aurora in the solar system. They ripple like tall curtains, changing every few minutes, according to a statement today from the space agency.

"The auroras have put on a dazzling show, shape-shifting rapidly and exposing curtains that we suspected were there, but hadn't seen on Saturn before," said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Seeing these things on another planet helps us understand them a little better when we see them on Earth."


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