A Universal Light Show

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Auroras, the colorful lights in the night skies of Earth’s polar regions, are also present on Mercury, Forbes reported.

These beautiful light shows occur as a result of charged particles – electrons, protons or ions – accelerating along a planet’s magnetic field lines.

So far they have been seen on Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, but are also present on Venus and Mars – even though the latter two lack global magnetic fields, according to Science Alert.

Mercury has a magnetic field but it’s extremely weak. Even so, a joint European-Japanese spacecraft found evidence of “Southern Lights” near the planet’s southern pole.

In their paper, researchers explained that the data was collected from a flyby of the planet by the BepiColumbo spacecraft, on a mission to study the planet close to the Sun.

In 2021, BepiColumbo collected images and took readings of Mercury’s southern magnetosphere – the area dominated by the planet’s magnetic field.

The research team explained that Mercury’s aurorae are similar to those seen on Earth and Mars. They added that they also change depending on the strength of the solar wind, similar to other planets like Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.

The findings suggest that the aurorae could be present in some form or another throughout the solar system.

But data from the BepiColumbo mission just showed one facet of long-neglected Mercury.

The mission is made up of two orbitals that will analyze the planet and try to understand how solar wind affects it.

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