Earth’s Polar Regions face Space Hurricanes

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An international team of researchers has reported the discovery of a new type of space weather phenomenon.High above the polar regions of Earth plasma moves about, looking like a hurricane or typhoon. The discovery of these space hurricanes is published in Nature Communications.

Hurricanes are common features on the planets of the solar system. As particles fall or rise, a zone of low pressure can form, resulting in hurricanes. Tropical storms in the Earth’s lower atmosphere happen this way.It turns out that the electrically charged particles in the ionosphere can actually behave in the same manner.

Co-author ProfessorMike Lockwood, a space scientist at the University of Reading, said in a statement:

“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.”

Data from multiple satellites suggest that silent periods around the Earth’s magnetosphere can lead to these events. When the magnetic field lines of our planet are not disturbed, they create a funneling structure above the magnetic pole, funneling electric particles from the solar wind right into the middle and upper atmosphere.

This is an important insight because our telecommunication network is affected by space weather in two ways:Events such as major solar storms can disrupt satellites and the like. At the other end of the scale, we have the continuous flux of particles from the Sun that slowly but surely wears down our technology. The findings show that we should not underestimate space weather, even during calmer periods.


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