Jupiter's striking aurora captured by Hubble

(ESA / Hubble)
(ESA / Hubble)

NASA has released a striking image of an aurora in Jupiter's atmosphere ahead of the Juno spacecraft's arrival at the planet.

The photo was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014 as part of an observation programme, using the telescope's ultraviolet capabilities.

It shows a stunning, electric-blue swirl around the gas giant's north pole.

Jupiter's striking aurora captured by Hubble

(ESA / Hubble)

The aurora covers areas bigger than the Earth and is a change from the images usually recognised of the planet - it's known for its colourful storms, including the iconic Great Red Spot.

The Hubble and Juno are working in unison as part of the observation programme, with Juno to measure the properties of the solar wind - a flow of charged particles from the Sun - and the Hubble to observe and measure the auroras.

University of Leicester's Jonathan Nichols is the principal investigator of the study.

He says the dramatic auroras captured on Jupiter are among the most active he's ever seen.

"It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno."

NASA says unlike auroras on Earth, Jupiter's stunning display never stops.

Earth's brightest and most intense auroras are the result of solar storms, when charged particles from the Sun rain down on the upper atmosphere.

On Jupiter, the planet's strong magnetic field not only draws in particles from the solar wind, but particles its moon Io throws into space too.

The Hubble will be capturing daily images of Jupiter's vivid auroras for a month, which can then be combined into a video to show the aurora's movements.