This hurricane was observed in the magnetosphere – no, this isn’t related to the X-Men, although that’d be awesome – which is the space surrounding Earth where charged particles are affected by, in this case, the Earth’s magnetic field. It was this magnetosphere that helped scientists to determine that the 2014 space hurricane rained down charged electrons.
The electrons rained down into the planet’s ionosphere, which is, “a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere that is ionized or charged by solar radiation,” according to The Weather Channel, which created an enormous, cyclone-shaped aurora. This aurora, and any aurora commonly see in the North Pole or South Pole regions of the world, occur when there’s a disturbance in the magnetosphere.According to the scientists and their abstract, this space hurricane was made of plasma and featured multiple outbursting arms that swirled in a counterclockwise direction at speeds as fast as 2100 meters per second or 4698 miles per hour. Much like the hurricanes that happen down here on Earth, the eye of this space hurricane basically remained still while the rest of the storm swirled quickly around it.
The results of the team’s findings mean that aurora can now be used to potentially identify space hurricanes. It also means that the magnetosphere, previously deemed a calm region, can be the location of some severe conditions, like that of a space hurricane, which could possibly affect the lower spheres of Earth, according to The Weather Channel.“This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions, which is comparable to that during superstorms,” Shandong University space physicist and study lead, Qing-He Zhang, wrote in the abstract. “This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions.”
For more science, check out this story about dust storms on Mars that glow purple with tiny sparks and then read about these spooky circles in space that are puzzling astronomers. Check out IGN’s list of the top 10 best disaster movies ever made after that.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.