What is Aurora Borealis? Is it happening on other Planets?

What is Aurora Borealis? Is it happening on other Planets?

Aurora Borealis

The exhibition of natural beauty in form of Auroras is not limited to the Earth alone as other planets experience them as well.

An Aurora is the end result of an impressive series of events that begins at the surface of Sun. It might seem a bit surprising as these natural lights can be seen in a clear, dark sky. A stream of charged particles, called Solar Wind, is emitted by the sun to all parts of the solar system.

The intensity of these winds variate considerably and this can lead to Solar Storms. Coronal Mass Ejection is one of these storms where a huge bubble of electrified gas moves rapidly across space towards Earth. On reaching the planet, charged particles interact with the magnetic field and are accelerated towards the poles along the field lines.

They collide with molecules of different gases, found in the upper atmosphere of Earth, like Oxygen and Nitrogen to give off energy in form of light. The colors of these lights vary from gas to gas and this gives birth to multi-color natural artistry we observe near both poles of our planet.

The auroras seen at the North Pole are known as Aurora Borealis or Northern lights. Similarly, the lights at the South Pole are called Aurora Australis or Southern lights. The amount of public attracted by this aspect of space weather is unparalleled as thousands of people travel long distances every year to view these scenes of natural beauty.

After realizing the cause for auroras, an obvious question that comes to our mind is, do other planets get auroras? Scientists believe that auroras do take place on all planets which have an atmosphere and magnetic field and they have some physical evidence to prove their claims. Space physicists verified the presence of auroras on all planets through images sent by powerful telescopes like Hubble Space Telescope. Some of their findings are explained below to give you a better understanding about those auroras.

·         Venus

It has no planetary magnetic field but concepts like solar wind interaction and ionosphere give Venus a magnetotail. Just like Earth, a magnetic bubble is formed around it which connects with its magnetotail to produce auroras. The researchers suggest that the light coming from Venus represents these auroras.

·         Mars

It resembles Venus, in terms of magnetic properties, as it lacks self-generated magnetic field. However, auroras are observed on Mars as it has several areas of magnetized rock near its crust.

Crustal Magnetic Anomalies is the name given to the remaining magnetic field of Mars. When solar particles approach these parts in abundance, light emissions are observed on the red planet. This type of aurora formation is observed only on Mars, at least as far as humans know.

·         Jupiter

Most of the auroras formed on the biggest planet of our solar system are due to the trapping of solar particles within its own magnetic field. As these auroras are almost independent of the intensity of solar winds, their size stays the same all the time. Researchers have found that the moons of this planet are also involved in the process of aurora formation. The gases produced by the volcanic moon of Jupiter travel through space and reach the planet’s atmosphere. Once they are there, they play an active and important role in displaying the art of nature.

·         Saturn

The auroras at Saturn are huge when compared to the ones that are formed on Earth. The charged particles coming from the Sun strike the polar atmosphere of this planet and ionize the Hydrogen atoms. This leads to an aurora which lies in the spectrum of ultraviolet and infrared lights due to which humans are unable to observe them with naked eyes. Just like Jupiter, astronomers believe that the moons of Saturn are also responsible for these auroras.

·         Uranus

Auroras on this ice giant last only for a couple of minutes while auroras on Earth can be seen for hours. As the magnetic field of Uranus is inclined at 59o to the axis of its spin, the auroras are formed far away from the poles. Their presence was detected in 2011 and a lot of scientists believe that it happened due to the increased solar activity which brought an extra amount of charged particles in the solar wind.

Computer Scientist by qualification who loves to read, write, eat, and travel

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