Do the Northern Lights Exist on Other Planets?


Do the Northern Lights Exist on Other Planets?

Northern lights are also commonly known as Aurora Borealis. Witnessing an aurora can be really a fascinating sight and an awe-inspiring experience if it is the first time. This is due to its natural beauty that captures our imaginations more than anything else in the sky. But those magnificent lights are not just unique to our planet alone, they are also prevalent on other planets in the solar system as well. But how do they occur in the first place?

Formation of Northern Lights

The northern lights come about due to the series of events which start from the sun with end results being witnessed on a given planet. The sun is always emitting streams of charged tiny particles referred to as Solar Winds into the solar system. When these particles arrive at a planet like the Earth, they come into contact with planet’s magnetic field (the magnetosphere) where they compress the field into what is seen as a teardrop shape while transferring energy into it.

As a result, changes in the magnetic field take place causing the already charged particles in the magnetosphere to accelerate towards the upper atmosphere. Once they are in the upper atmosphere, the particles collide with a number of molecules including oxygen and nitrogen which give off light energy. The light energy, however, creates ribbons of color which becomes visible across the sky in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere (where magnetic north or south poles are located). Does the same trend occur on other planets?

Just like it happens on Earth, so does the same phenomenon occur on other planets as well. On Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter, Northern lights form in a more similar manner as they do on Earth. But on Venus and Mars, the situation is different due to the fact that these planets do not have any significant magnetic field to cause the occurrence of the auroras. This does not mean that these beautiful lights don’t occur on the said planets.

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Auroras on Mars

On Mars, the northern lights occur near the regions with the magnetized rock in the planet’s crust unlike near the poles. This means that when the solar particles are charged, they end up concentration towards the magnetized rocks given that there are insufficient magnetic fields on Mars. This type of northern light is only unique to Mars since those crustal magnetic anomalies are thought to be the last remnants of the planet’s magnetic field.

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Auroras on Venus

Similarly, Venus does not have its own magnetic field but in many occasions, flashes of light originating from the planet itself have been identified to be auroras. According to scientists, the same process with which auroras form on Earth helps in the formation of a huge magnetic bubble on Venus. Consequently, these gigantic magnetic bubbles are responsible for the formation of auroras on Venus.

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Auroras on Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus

When it comes to Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, the formation of northern lights are similar but the difference comes in a number of ways. For instance, the Auroras on Jupiter form as a result of trapping of the particles found within its magnetic environment. Away from that, Auroras on Uranus have first discovered in 2011 thanks to Hubble Space Telescope. The formation of Auroras on this huge ice planet is seen far from its poles due to the position of the magnetic fields which are inclined at 69 degrees in relation to the axis of the spin. In the case of Saturn, the difference comes about where the size of northern lights appears larger compared to the Earth’s.

With research in progress, more and more discoveries are underway to establish the mysteries that lie behind these beautiful and magnificent northern lights.

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