space hurricane
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
May 18, 2024 ·  2 min read

‘Space hurricane’ that rained electrons observed for the first time

We’ve all witnessed (or at least seen videos of) hurricanes on Earth, but did you know that they can happen in space, too? A team of researchers from China’s Shandong University spotted the first-ever space hurricane over the North Pole. The difference? Instead of water, space hurricanes rain electrons. (1)

Researchers Discover The First-Ever Space Hurricane Over The North Pole

While observing satellite data, the Shandong University scientists noticed an unusual mass of plasma swirling where the Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space. Upon further inspection, they realized that the mass was swirling in the same pattern that hurricane winds do on Earth, making this the first-ever recorded space hurricane in Earth’s atmosphere. (1)

“In space, astronomers have spotted hurricanes on Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, which are similar to terrestrial hurricanes in the low atmosphere,” the researchers wrote in their study. “However, hurricanes have not been reported in the upper atmosphere of the planets in our heliosphere.” (1)

The researchers note in the paper that there are solar gases swirling in the Sun’s atmosphere, called solar tornados. They’ve seen anything like this in our own atmosphere. (1)

It’s Raining Electrons

The type of hurricane spun counterclockwise, just as hurricanes on Earth do. Stretching over 1,000 square kilometers above the North Pole, it lasted almost eight hours and rained electrons instead of water. (1)

The research team says that this could be an important discovery about the interaction between winds in our solar system and other ones. (1)

There Could Be Other’s Like It

One of the scientists on the research team is Professor Mike Lockwood. He says this shows that these hurricanes could be widespread and occur on all planets with a magnetic field. (2)

“Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible,” he explains. “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.” (2)

Scientists don’t know much yet about space hurricanes. This one happening in our own atmosphere will help researchers study them further. 

Keep Reading: A golden chamber buried under a mountain in Japan contains water so pure it can dissolve metal.

Sources

  1. A space hurricane over the Earth’s polar ionosphere.” Nature. Qing-He Zhang, et al. February 22, 2021.
  2. ‘Space hurricane’ in Earth’s upper atmosphere discovered.” Science Daily. March 2, 2021.