Astronomers have detected a “hurricane” of plasma in upper atmosphere of the Earth. They have termed this phenomenon as “space hurricane”.
- The space hurricane was discovered above the Earth’s magnetic north pole. It existed for about 8-10 hours.
- A space hurricane is a huge, funnel-like, spiral geomagnetic storm that occurs above the polar Ionosphere of Earth, during extremely quiet conditions.
- They are related to the aurora borealis phenomenon, as the electron precipitation from the storm’s funnel produces gigantic, cyclone-shaped auroras.
- Scientists believe that they occur in the polar regions of planets with magnetic fields.
- Hurricanes (tropical cyclones) on Earth are formed within the atmosphere by thunderstorms and angular momentum from the Earth’s rotation, and draw up energy from the ocean surface, while space hurricanes are formed by plasma interacting with magnetic fields and draw energy down from the flow of the Solar wind.
- It was not visible to naked eye but was caught on satellites.
- The space hurricane rained electrons into the upper atmosphere instead of water that a typical hurricane would rain.
- The researchers have used hypothesis to assume that the formation resulted from a complex interaction between incoming solar wind and the magnetic field over the North Pole.
- The phenomenon may not be restricted to only earth but may also occur on any planet with a magnetic shield and plasma in its atmosphere. This is because plasma and magnetic fields are found all over the universe.
The phenomenon was discovered by a team of researchers from Shandong University in China, whom had observed the storm over the Arctic region on 20 August 2014, before identifying its nature in 2021. The research team also consisted of scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway. The team observed the space hurricane for 8 hours, before it gradually broke down. The storm was observed during a period of low solar and geomagnetic activity. This was the first time that a hurricane-like storm had been observed in the upper atmosphere, and previously, it was uncertain whether they existed. Researchers believe that such space storms may be relatively common in our solar system and beyond, on planets with magnetic fields, because the storm observed in 2014 occurred during a period of low geomagnetic activity.