Paula Cleggett-Haleim Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1548) Ray Villard Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. (Phone: 410/338-4514) RELEASE: 92-22

February 10, 1992

HUBBLE TELESCOPE TAKES PART IN COORDINATED JUPITER STUDY NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was used to study aurorae, not on Earth but one-half billion miles away on the giant planet Jupiter. The HST made observations of Jupiter over a 4-day period when ESA/NASA Ulysses spacecraft swung by the giant planet. Ulysses used Jupiter's immense gravitational field to get a "slingshot boost" out of the plane of the Solar System and onto a trajectory toward the sun, where it will study the sun's polar regions never before visited by a spacecraft. Ulysses' closest approach to Jupiter occurred on February 8th. While passing Jupiter, Ulysses made measurements of Jupiter's powerful magnetic field and the flow of subatomic particles along magnetic field lines. Simultaneously, HST was looking at aurorae, one visual manifestation of these electrical fireworks. These joint observations will provide a unique opportunity to combine ultraviolet images and spectra with information on particles and fields. This will lead to a better understanding of what produces and maintains auroral activity. Despite the uncertainty as to whether the Jovian aurorae were bright enough for HST to observe, astronomers say it was a worthwhile experiment because of the unique opportunity to obtain auroral images and spectra while a spacecraft was located inside Jupiter's magnetosphere. Several teams of astronomers used HST to observe auroral activity at the north and south poles of Jupiter. High resolution images of Jupiter's polar regions were taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera and the

European Space Agency's Faint Object Camera, while the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph studied the chemistry of auroral emissions. Results from these observations will be analyzed in about a month. - more -2By studying the activity of Jupiter's aurorae, astronomers hope to learn more about the dynamics of Jupiter's immense magnetic field, the structure of the giant planet's upper atmosphere, the effects of aurora on the chemistry of the polar regions on Jupiter and Jupiter's interaction with the moon Io via a magnetic "flux tube." The shimmering colors and patterns of the aurora borealis (northern lights) are a familiar sight to residents of northern United States and Canada. Besides Earth, the gas-giant planets Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune are known to have auroral activity. Aurorae on Jupiter were first discovered in 1979 by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. Aurorae have been subsequently observed by NASA's International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), as well as ground-based infrared telescopes. Hubble Space Telescope is ideally suited for studies of auroral activity on Jupiter, as well as other planets, because Jupiter's aurorae are most active at ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. The important UV portion of the aurorae's spectrum cannot be observed through Earth's absorbing atmosphere, hence studies cannot be done from telescopes located on Earth's surface. The space telescope's ultraviolet sensitivity allowed astronomers to filter out the glare of Jupiter and focus on the UV emissions from the aurorae. However, there is some uncertainty in the observations because aurorae have never been directly imaged in this way and because the strength of the auroral emissions varies over time. This means that it's possible that the aurora were too faint for HST to detect. Previous infrared ground based observations, in addition to ultraviolet observations made with IUE and Voyager spacecraft, show that Jupiter, like Earth, has auroral belts encircling the planet's north and south pole. On Jupiter these belts are about 1,000 miles wide. HST may be able to resolve details and structure as small as 100 miles across. Jovian aurorae radiate a trillion watts - a thousand times as much energy as that which powers Earth's aurora. How is this energy produced? One possibility is that the processes are similar to those which produce aurorae on Earth, but on a grand scale.

Like Earth, Jupiter is enshrouded in a magnetic field, though it is far larger and more powerful than Earth's. The solar wind, a steady stream of electrons and protons from the sun, flows around this field. Because these particles are electrically charged, some become trapped and spiral along field lines. Aurorae are produced when these high energy particles descend to Jupiter's magnetic poles and collide with gas molecules in the Jovian atmosphere, making them fluoresce. - more -3Another possibility is that the aurorae are produced by sulfur from Jupiter's volcanically active moon Io. Sulfur and oxygen ions, blasted off of Io's surface, speed along a 5 million ampere river of electricity called a "flux tube" which flows between Io and Jupiter's magnetic poles. The ions rain down into Jupiter's upper atmosphere at the foot of this flux tube, when auroral activity may be intense. Auroral processes play an important role in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter's polar region. The steady cascade of particles may heat the atmosphere and trigger chemical changes. The Hubble Space Telescope is managed and operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., for NASA's Office of Space Science and Application. The Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md., is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. -end-