[caption id="attachment_79444" align="aligncenter" width="634"] NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed similar curtain-like auroras to those seen on Earth - except on Saturn, they are red at the bottom and purple at the top. [/caption]NASA probe gets 360-degree view of Saturn's auroras
Saturn's auroras can be random. Sometimes they're amazing fireworks. Other times they're a dull roar or nonexistent. New combined images from NASA's Cassini orbiter with those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope has yielded a dynamic new view of Saturn's auroras. A special video released by NASA on Tuesday, Feb. 11 shows dazzling 360-degree detail of Saturn's southern and northern lights. Multiple views of the ringed planet's different light wavelengths presents an amazing picture.
The resulting video is 'a kind of step-by-step choreography detailing how the auroras move, showing the complexity of these auroras and how scientists can connect an outburst from the sun and its effect on the magnetic environment at Saturn,' says Nasa.
'Saturn's auroras can be fickle -- you may see fireworks, you may see nothing,' said Jonathan Nichols of the University of Leicester in England, who led the work on the Hubble images.
'In 2013, we were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of dancing auroras, from steadily shining rings to super-fast bursts of light shooting across the pole.'
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn sending back photos. The Hubble telescope also was trained on Saturn. Scientists combined images taken in April and May, 2013 to provide new visuals. They used information learned from the photos to conclude that Saturn's aurora activity was the result of solar wind.
The wind carried charged particles away from the sun into Saturn's atmosphere. This causes planetary lights to glow at opposite poles of Saturn.
The dancing light show of Saturn's aurora was captured on Cassini's ultraviolet imaging spectrometer, Caltech scientists said, at very close range. This was the best look ever according to scientists.
'This is our best look yet at the rapidly changing patterns of auroral emission,' said Wayne Pryor, a Cassini co-investigator at Central Arizona College.
'Some bright spots come and go from image to image.
'Other bright features persist and rotate around the pole, but at a rate slower than Saturn's rotation.'
The Saturn aurora projects was completed by a team from NASA, Caltech, the Italian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency. Caltech managed the program.