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What are "Space Hurricanes" and "Auroras" ?

news-details Image Source Mar 14, 2021 08:02 IST , Updated: Jul 13, 2021 08:02 IST · 2 min read

What is Space Hurricane ?

For the first time ever, scientists from China's Shandong University have confirmed the existence of 1,000 km-wide swirling mass of plasma (space hurricane), hundreds of kilometres above the North Pole.

A space hurricane is a form of environmental phenomenon where instead of wind and rain, charged electrons and plasma make up the majority of the storm.

The space hurricane measured roughly 600 miles across, spun counterclockwise at speeds up to 4,700 miles per hour and rained down charged electrons for as long as eight hours.

The hurricane was very much like a typical terrestrial hurricane in shape - like a funnel with a quiet 'eye' at the centre.

The event resulted from a complex interaction between incoming solar winds containing plasma and the magnetic field of the Earth.

Space hurricanes can occur on any planets than have a magnetic field and large amount of solar plasma in their atmosphere.

Being many kilometres above the surface, space hurricanes are not dangerous to humans, but they can impact existing weather conditions, damage satellites, can disrupt GPS and radio communication systems.

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

They are related to the aurora borealis phenomenon, as the electron precipitation from the storm's funnel produces gigantic, cyclone-shaped auroras.

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.

What is Aurora ?

Auroras are caused when charged particles ejected from the Sun's surface - called the solar wind - enter the Earth's atmosphere. These particles are harmful, and our planet is protected by the geomagnetic field, which preserves life by shielding us from the solar wind.

However, at the north and south poles, some of these solar wind particles are able to continuously stream down, and interact with different gases in the atmosphere to cause a display of light in the night sky.

Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. These disturbances are sometimes strong enough to alter the trajectories of charged particles in both solar wind and magnetospheric plasma.

These particles, mainly electrons and protons, precipitate into the upper atmosphere. Precipitating protons generally produce optical emissions as incident hydrogen atoms after gaining electrons from the atmosphere.

In the northern part of our globe, the polar lights are called aurora borealis or Northern Lights, and are seen from the US (Alaska), Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

In the south, they are called aurora australis or southern lights, and are visible from high latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

Most of the planets in our solar system, some natural satellites, brown dwarfs, and even comets also host auroras.

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