While the curtain-like auroras we see at Earth are green at bottom and red at top, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has shown us similar curtain-like auroras at Saturn that are red at bottom and purple at top. This is how the auroras would look to the human eye.
Add image to your album
Email this page Post this page to your Facebook wall Tweet this page

Saturn's Colorful Aurora

Click here for larger version of PIA17668
Annotated Version
Click on the image for larger annotated version

While the curtain-like auroras we see at Earth are green at the bottom and red at the top, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has shown us similar curtain-like auroras at Saturn that are red at the bottom and purple at the top. This is how the auroras would look to the human eye.

The color difference occurs because Earth's auroras are dominated by excited nitrogen and oxygen atoms and molecules, and Saturn's auroras are dominated by excited forms of hydrogen. Within each element, colors can differ because of atmospheric density, the levels of the atomic version of an element versus the molecular version, and the energy of impacting electrons.

The height of this particular part of the aurora is about 870 miles (1,400 kilometers).

This image from Cassini's imaging cameras shows particularly bright auroras on Nov. 29, 2010. Star tracks appear in the clear sky due to the spacecraft's motion. Color was derived from the measurements in red, green and blue filters. In the annotated version, the longitude and latitude are marked on the planet with white dashed lines. An unannotated version is also available.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://www.nasa.gov/saturn.

Image details

ID#:
PIA17668

Date added:
2014-02-11

Mission:
Cassini-Huygens

Spacecraft:
Cassini Orbiter

Instruments:
Imaging Science Subsystem

Rating:



Views:
1,214

Full-Res TIFF:
PIA17668.tif (4.25 MB)

Full-Res JPG:
PIA17668.jpg (0.1 MB)

Image credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI