PIA17668: Saturn's Colorful Aurora
Mission: Cassini-Huygens
Spacecraft: Cassini Orbiter
Instrument: Imaging Science Subsystem
Product Size: 1501 x 943 pixels (width x height)
Produced By: Cassini Imaging Team
Full-Res TIFF: PIA17668.tif (4.248 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA17668.jpg (102.2 kB)

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Annotated Version
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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 Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Image Addition Date:
2014-02-11