While a “space hurricane” hovering over the Earth may sound like the plot of a sci-fi movie, it is a real phenomenon that was recently confirmed for the first time in our upper atmosphere.
A recent study published in Nature Communications outlined the extraterrestrial incident, which took place over the North Pole.
Satellites from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program first detected the “space hurricane” in August of 2014, and researchers from Shandong University in China and the University of Reading in the UK confirmed the discovery, reports Fox News.
The cyclone-like auroral spot rotated counterclockwise in the northern polar ionosphere. With a quiet center and multiple arms, the spot had a diameter of over 621 miles and “rained” electrons over the Earth for almost eight hours, shared researchers.
What resulted was the occurrence of a whirling plasma pattern, similar to the air patterns seen in terrestrial hurricanes.
Mike Lockwood, a professor at the University of Reading, said that it is “incredible” to be able to prove the existence of plasma hurricanes.
"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,” Lockwood said.
According to Nature, other planets in the Solar System have experienced similar phenomena, with recorded incidents of hurricanes in the lower atmospheres of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Prior to this incident, however, it was not confirmed that they could occur in a planet’s upper atmosphere.
Investigators indicated that this discovery could be a sign of universal phenomena, reports the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Plasma and magnetic fields in the atmosphere of planets exist throughout the universe, so the findings suggest space hurricanes should be… widespread,” Lockwood said.