HomeOutdoorsNewsScientists Reveal New Information on Wild ‘Space Hurricanes’ Above North Pole

Scientists Reveal New Information on Wild ‘Space Hurricanes’ Above North Pole

by Suzanne Halliburton
Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

In the spirit of Christmas, let’s hope there are no Space Hurricanes forming above the North Pole during this next week. But in all seriousness, these storms really are a thing, but not in a conventional, blustery sense.

A year ago, scientists announced that they’d discovered what they described as cyclone-like auroras. Now, they’re revealing more details. One such space hurricane over the North Pole was over 600 miles in diameter. It had multiple arms that rained electrons. It spun in a counterclockwise direction. Plus, there was a calm center. Basically, the scientists described a hurricane, which forms in warm ocean waters. These storms sport multiple bands — call them arms — spinning around a low-pressure eye. As the bands grow tighter around the center, the storm grows stronger, with horrific winds and rain.

So what happens with these space hurricanes above the North Pole? First, scientists acknowledged they’ve been there for a while.

“[They’re] occurring where nobody looked and occurring under conditions where nobody thought anything was happening,” said Larry Lyons, a space physicist at UCLA who co-authored a study on space hurricanes.

“It’s just a matter of opening your eyes.”

Space hurricanes are auroras that form over the North Pole. This is a photo of the aurora borealis as seen in October over Russia. (Semen Vasileyev/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

You can notice these storms by the auroras they cause. An aurora forms when the sun pushes a storm of excess electrified gas our way. The storm’s energy can travel down the North and South Poles and interact with some of our planet’s gases. Oxygen appears as red and green lights. Nitrogen gives us the gorgeous blues and purples.

The particles and energy generated by the space hurricanes enter at higher latitudes than the well-identified auroras.

“People have known there’s been some bright aurora or some forms of aurora in that region before,” Lyons told the Washington Post. “But nobody had really put it together into this cohesive picture. It’s really strong. And the aurora can be very, very bright.”

So if you’re fortunate enough to be in position to see these space hurricane auroras, you’re not feeling strong winds or intense rain. It’s all about the magical light they generate. And here’s how they’re different than the aurora borealis that flashes in the Northern Hemisphere.

These auroras last for up to eight hours. Meanwhile, the aurora borealis flashes for a matter of minutes. Scientists say they appear the space hurricanes generate during periods of low geomagnetic activity.

But remember when we said you had to be lucky to see these lights? You’d have to be at 80 degrees north latitude from the North Pole. Sure, Santa and the elves probably are delighted by the sight, so pass the cookies. Otherwise, you’d probably need to be viewing the special auroras from the International Space Station.

The space hurricanes can impact other aspects of life. The Washington Post said they can interfere with satellite communication and navigational systems. The upper atmosphere may heat up because of them, which could throw off the orbits of satellites. But there’s not a risk for folks on Earth or in space. It’s merely a mysterious detail of so much we don’t really know.