Research

Space Hurricanes

An illustration of a space hurricane, based on observation data.

Researchers have observed their first “space hurricane” – a 1,000-km-wide vortex of plasma – in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Like conventional hurricanes, this storm featured precipitation (of electrons rather than rain), a calm eye at its center, and several spiral arms. Based on the group’s model, interactions between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic fields drive the storm. Interestingly, the storm they observed occurred during a period of low solar and geomagnetic activity, which suggests that such space hurricanes could be frequent, both on Earth and in the upper atmospheres of other planets. (Image credit: Q. Zhang; research credit: Q. Zhang et al.; via Physics World)

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