Space hurricane that 'rained' electrons discovered swirling above North Pole

The cosmic phenomenon could have disrupted satellites

The space hurricane was 1,000 kilometres wide and swirled above the North Pole. University of Reading 
Powered by automated translation

Scientists discovered a space hurricane swirling in Earth's upper atmosphere for the first time.

It released electrons instead of water above the North Pole.

It resembled the hurricanes that frequently occur in the planet's lower atmosphere, but this one was a mass of plasma and charged particles that could have disrupted satellites.

The hurricane was 1,000 kilometres wide and lasted for eight hours before breaking apart.

Similar events have been observed in the lower atmospheres of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but never in the upper atmosphere.

Satellites observed the space hurricane over Earth in 2014 and the findings have been analysed by scientists at the University of Reading in the UK, as part of a team led by Shandong University in China.

The study of the hurricane helped create a 3D model of the event and the findings were published in science journal Nature Communications.

"Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible," said Prof Mike Lockwood, a space scientist at the University of Reading.

“Tropical storms are associated with huge amounts of energy and these space hurricanes must be created by an 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.”

Space weather is a major area of focus for scientists as they try to uncover the mysteries of the universe and keep track of potential threats to Earth.

The UAE's mission to Mars - in pictures