NASA Cassini Spacecraft Captures Spectacular Auroras at Saturn's South Pole (VIEW Today's 'Galaxy' Stream)
NASA's Cassini spacecraft gazed toward high southern latitudes near Saturn's south pole to observe ghostly curtains of dancing light -- Saturn's southern auroras, or southern lights. These natural light displays at the planet's poles are created by charged particles raining down into the upper atmosphere, making gases there glow.
Scientists first observed Saturn’s auroras in 1979. Decades later, these shimmering ribbons of light still fascinate. For one thing they’re magnificently tall, rising hundreds of miles above the planet’s poles. And unlike on Earth where bright displays fizzle after only a few hours, auroras on Saturn can shine for days. Auroras are produced when speeding particles accelerated by the sun’s energy collide with gases in a planet’s atmosphere. The gases fluoresce, emitting flashes of light at different wavelengths.
The dark area at the top of this scene is Saturn's night side. The auroras rotate from left to right, curving around the planet as Saturn rotates over about 70 minutes, compressed here into a movie sequence of about five seconds.
The Daily Galaxy via NASA/JPL