Aurora

Definition

Aurora is a shifting pattern of light emitted from atoms and molecules in the atmosphere after they have been ionized by collisions with charged particles from the sun. The radiation can be seen with the naked eye, most notably at the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field focusses most of the solar particles.

Featured

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research |

    The authors discover that Jupiter's southern X-ray aurora is concentrated into a hot spot (until now only the north pole was known to have one), which behaves completely differently in brightness and timing pulsation from its northern counterpart.

    • W. R. Dunn
    • , G. Branduardi-Raymont
    • , L. C. Ray
    • , C. M. Jackman
    • , R. P. Kraft
    • , R. F. Elsner
    • , I. J. Rae
    • , Z. Yao
    • , M. F. Vogt
    • , G. H. Jones
    • , G. R. Gladstone
    • , G. S. Orton
    • , J. A. Sinclair
    • , P. G. Ford
    • , G. A. Graham
    • , R. Caro-Carretero
    •  & A. J. Coates
    Nature Astronomy 1, 758–764
  • Research |

    The process that generates Earth’s most intense aurora is found to occur at Jupiter, but is of only secondary importance in generating Jupiter’s much more powerful aurora.

    • B. H. Mauk
    • , D. K. Haggerty
    • , C. Paranicas
    • , G. Clark
    • , P. Kollmann
    • , A. M. Rymer
    • , S. J. Bolton
    • , S. M. Levin
    • , A. Adriani
    • , F. Allegrini
    • , F. Bagenal
    • , B. Bonfond
    • , J. E. P. Connerney
    • , G. R. Gladstone
    • , W. S. Kurth
    • , D. J. McComas
    •  & P. Valek
    Nature 549, 66–69
  • Research |

    Substorms in the Earth’s magnetosphere lead to bright aurorae, releasing energy into the surrounding ionosphere. Ground- and space-based observations now reveal how that energy is dissipated and controlled by strong electric currents.

    • E. V. Panov
    • , W. Baumjohann
    • , R. A. Wolf
    • , R. Nakamura
    • , V. Angelopoulos
    • , J. M. Weygand
    •  & M. V. Kubyshkina
    Nature Physics 12, 1158–1163
  • Research |

    Radio and optical spectroscopic observations of a brown dwarf reveal auroral emissions powered by magnetospheric currents, showing that aurorae may be a signature of magnetospheres much larger than those observed in our Solar System.

    • G. Hallinan
    • , S. P. Littlefair
    • , G. Cotter
    • , S. Bourke
    • , L. K. Harding
    • , J. S. Pineda
    • , R. P. Butler
    • , A. Golden
    • , G. Basri
    • , J. G. Doyle
    • , M. M. Kao
    • , S. V. Berdyugina
    • , A. Kuznetsov
    • , M. P. Rupen
    •  & A. Antonova
    Nature 523, 568–571
  • Research |

    A pattern of features is detected, superposed on Saturn’s low-latitude infrared glow, that implies the transfer of charged species derived from water (ring ‘rain’) from the ring plane to the ionosphere, ultimately leading to the global modulation of upper atmospheric chemistry.

    • J. O’Donoghue
    • , T. S. Stallard
    • , H. Melin
    • , G. H. Jones
    • , S. W. H. Cowley
    • , S. Miller
    • , K. H. Baines
    •  & J. S. D. Blake
    Nature 496, 193–195
  • Research |

    Earth's diffuse aurora occurs over a broad latitude range, and is mainly caused by the precipitation of low-energy electrons originating in the central plasma sheet. Theory suggests that two classes of magnetospheric plasma waves — electrostatic electron cyclotron harmonic waves and whistler-mode chorus waves — could be responsible for the electron scattering that leads to diffuse auroral precipitation. Here it is found that scattering by chorus is the dominant cause of the most intense diffuse precipitation.

    • Richard M. Thorne
    • , Binbin Ni
    • , Xin Tao
    • , Richard B. Horne
    •  & Nigel P. Meredith
    Nature 467, 943–946

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    The discovery of Jupiter’s southern X-ray aurora reveals that it is tellingly different from the northern one, providing important clues to how Jupiter’s polar aurorae are generated.

    • Tom S. Stallard
    Nature Astronomy 1, 755–756
  • News and Views |

    The origin of the diffuse aurora, whose beauty and intensity pale beside those of the famous aurora borealis, has remained controversial. A convincing explanation for this auroral display is now at hand. See Letter p.943

    • Patrick T. Newell
    Nature 467, 927–928