The term ‘Space Hurricane’ may sound terrifying but it is related to a beautiful natural phenomenon that we all know and love- Auroras. A new study now reveals more details about this overlooked phenomenon, including when and why they occur.
Last year, cyclone-like auroras had been discovered near the North Pole which were 600 miles in diameter with multiple arms that rotate counterclockwise. Occurring in a 3D funnel shape, they also have a calm center, and “rain” electrons into the upper atmosphere.
The team of scientists analyzed more than 300 space hurricanes over 11 years – about 30 observations per year and found that they most often appeared in the afternoon during summer.
Caused by electrons raining down into the atmosphere and exciting molecules, Space Hurricanes share several similarities with auroras in that they shine in the same green, red, blue and pink hues and move at similar speeds and heights.
However, the study found that the cyclonic auroras form at latitudes that are higher than where traditional auroras are created. Space Hurricanes also spin for eight hours as opposed to the traditional auroras which last a few minutes.
Space Hurricanes appear during periods of low geomagnetic activity, when disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field by solar particles have been believed to be very low, Washington Post reported.
While the hurricanes do not pose an exceptional risk to spacecraft or astronauts’ health, they cause the upper atmosphere to heat up, which could affect the orbits of satellites and space debris.
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