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Scientists saw a 'space hurricane' swirling over the northern magnet pole. It rained solar particles

An illustration of a North Pole space hurricane. Qing-He, The University of Zhang/Shandong

  • Scientists said in a new study that they spotted a space hurricane for the first time in August 2014.

  • The storm swirled 125 miles above the magnetic north pole.

  • Instead of dropping water, the space hurricane rained electrons, which can wreak havoc on satellites.

In satellite imaging, typical hurricanes can easily be found: Clouds swirling around a silent eye. These storms usually develop in the lower layer of the atmosphere, nearer the surface of the Earth, and release heavy rain and strong winds.

Hurricanes in space are entirely different beasts.

The first space hurricane ever seen is described in a study published last month in the journal Nature Communications. Satellites observed a swirling masse over 125 miles above the North Pole in August 2014 with a silent center

This space hurricane was the eddy of the plasma, a superhot charged gas found across the entire solar system, while regular churn air hurricanes were occurring. And this storm brought electron showers instead of rain.

Michael Lockwood, a space scientist at Reading University and co-author of the new studies, said in a press release: "There were even uncertain space plasma hurricanes up till now, so to prove this with such a striking observation was incredible."

The space hurricane in the sky was more than 620 miles wide and high - between 50 and 600 miles above the ionosphere. To create a 3D model for the storm, Lockwood and his coauthors have used satellite data.

Satellites could be affected by space hurricanes

The NGC 1566 spiral galaxy, as photographed by NASA's Hubble Telescope.

It took eight hours for the hurricane to swirl counterclockwise. The researchers said it had several spiral arms, a little like a spiral galaxy, snapping from its center.

When Lockwood and his colleagues plugged Satellite data into a computer model, they were able to replicate and figure out what caused the storm. They found that the charged corona, the upper atmosphere of the sun, was responsible for the particles emitted. The continuous flow of solar and coronal plasma is known as the solar wind. It moves approximately 1,000,000 miles per hour.

"The unusually large and fast transfer of solar wind energy and charges of charged particles into the top atmosphere of the Earth must produce those space hurricanes," said Lockwood.

When the solar wind reaches Earth, it meets the magnetic field of the planet. This field is caused by the swirling liquid iron and nickel in the earth's external core, which leads to electrical currents. The magnetosphere protects the planet from deadly sunlight and retains a small plasma layer from the solar wind.

Solar winds typically look outside this protective sheath. However, sometimes charged particles and plasma entering the field interact with either the trapped plasma or the electrical currents. These interactions lead to magnetosphere disturbances.

One such disruption was the 2014 space hurricane.

The authors of the study suggested that the storm was formed by an interaction between the Earth's magnet field and bits of the magnetic Sunfield - carried by the solar wind.

The planet is shielded from solar radiation by the Earth's magnetic field. Goddard / DesRocher Bailee NASA

Magnet fields are usually not mixed. But if they get close, portions of the fields can be restructured and fusion even, forming a new magnetic energy pattern. This was probably on the day of the storm: A new pattern over Earth's magnet North Poles was formed by an influx of solar wind energy.

The storm acted as a channel into the atmosphere of the earth and drunk certain electrons past the armor of the planet.

The study's authors said that this particular rain could have devastated our high-frequency radio, radar-detection, or satellite technology communications. Because charged solar particles that penetrate the magnetic field of the Earth can cause computer and circuit malfunctions on satellites and the international space station. Fortunately, no problems were noted in this case.

Other planets might also have hurricanes in space

An example of Jupiter's magnetic field in the planetarium show "Worlds Beyond Earth" of the American Museum of Natural History. Business Insider/Aylin Woodward

Not only is Earth hurricane-like weather conditions occur on Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. However, it was the first time that scientists discovered a hurricane in a solar system's upper atmosphere.

Lockwood said he believes a space hurricane could take place on any planet or moon with a magnetosphere. With the exception of Venus and Mars, all the planets in our solar system.

"Plasma and magnetic fields exist throughout the world in the atmosphere of planets, so the findings suggest that hurricanes in space should be widespread," he said.


Source Business Insider, Caldwell catalog, and NASA.

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