‘Space hurricanes’ have been discovered by scientists - everything you need to know

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 4:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 8:58 am
‘Space hurricanes’ have been discovered by scientists - everything you need to know
 (Photo: Shutterstock)
‘Space hurricanes’ have been discovered by scientists - everything you need to know (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have confirmed the existence of so-called ‘space hurricanes’ for the first time.

Researchers found that the hurricanes rain electrons instead of water, can last for almost eight hours and contain a quiet centre, similar to hurricanes on Earth.

How do we know they exist?

A team of scientists came to the conclusion after observing a giant mass of plasma approximately 1,000 kilometres wide, swirling in the atmosphere hundreds of miles above the North Pole.

The space hurricane was observed by satellites in our planet’s upper atmosphere in August 2014.

Scientists took the satellite observations and used them to create a 3D rendering of the hurricane in Earth’s ionosphere.

The ionosphere is a layer of the earth’s atmosphere between around 48km to 965km which is able to reflect radio waves.

The hurricanes are likely to lead to space weather effects, including satellite drag, disturbances in high frequency radio, increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation and communication systems.

Despite taking place in space, scientists noted that the hurricane had similarities with those on Earth, including multiple spiral arms and a quiet centre. The scientists officially published their findings in the science journal, Nature Communications.

‘A widespread phenomena’

Space scientist at the University of Reading, Professor Mike Lockwood, said that planets and moons with magnetic fields and plasma might all see hurricanes.

He said: “Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible.

“Tropical storms are associated with huge amounts of energy, and these space hurricanes must be created by unusually large and rapid transfer of solar wind energy and charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

“Plasma and magnetic fields in the atmosphere of planets exist throughout the universe, so the findings suggest space hurricanes should be a widespread phenomena.”