PIA13402: Glowing Southern Lights


Glowing Southern Lights

Caption:

This false-color composite image, constructed from data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, shows the glow of auroras streaking out about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the cloud tops of Saturn's south polar region. It is among the first images released from a study that identifies images showing auroral emissions out of the entire catalogue of images taken by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer.

In this image constructed from data collected in the near-infrared wavelengths of light, the auroral emission is shown in green. Scientists designated blue to indicate sunlight reflected at wavelengths from 2 to 3 microns, green to indicate light from hydrogen ions at wavelengths between 3 and 4 microns and red to indicate thermal emission at 5 microns. Saturn's rings and high altitude haze only reflect sunlight at 3 microns or less, so they appear deep blue. The glow from the aurora can only be seen at the wavelengths in the green channel. The heat emission from the interior of Saturn is only seen at 5 microns wavelength in the spectrometer data, and thus appears red. The dark spots and banded features in the image are clouds and small storms that outline the deeper weather systems and circulation patterns of the planet. They are illuminated from underneath by Saturn's thermal emission, and thus appear in silhouette.

The composite image was made from 65 individual observations by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer on Nov. 1, 2008. The observations were each six minutes long.

Background Info:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/ . The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team homepage is at http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu .

Cataloging Keywords:

Name Value Additional Values
Target Saturn Saturn Rings, Sun
System Saturn
Target Type Planet Ring, Sun
Mission Cassini-Huygens
Instrument Host Cassini Orbiter
Host Type Orbiter
Instrument Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS)
Detector
Extra Keywords Atmosphere, Color, Haze, Infrared, Storm, Wave
Acquisition Date
Release Date 2010-09-23
Date in Caption 2008-11-01
Image Credit NASA/JPL/ASI/University of Arizona/University of Leicester
Source photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13402
Identifier PIA13402