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Space 'Hurricane' Has Been Seen

It seems natural to extend to outer space the same kind of terminology and concerns that come into play in studying the atmosphere - space weather.

A wide auroral oval happens when the sun’s magnetic field points south while it interacts with the dayside section of Earth’s magnetic field, which points north as it flows around the planet. During a solar storm, in which electrons and parts of the sun’s magnetic field fly toward Earth, the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields can couple together, a bit like two opposing ends of a bar magnet. This coupling sets up a strong magnetic pathway between the sun and Earth, allowing electrons and positive ions from the solar wind to rush down into the Earth’s atmosphere at the poles.

To explain the weird hurricane-like 2014 auroral vortex—a spinning lightshow tightly packed around the magnetic north—the team attempted to replicate what the satellites saw in a 3D model that can simulate the movements of magnetic fluids.

At that time, the sun’s magnetic compass was pointing very strongly north, so the coupling with Earth’s magnetic field was extremely weak. That caused the auroral oval to contract into a small spot atop the magnetic north pole.

Even during the mild solar wind conditions present that day, electrons still rained down into Earth’s upper atmosphere. Over a wide auroral oval they would normally produce dim auroras. But as they were falling into such a tight oval that day, more gas atoms and molecules were being pinged in that specific spot than usual, creating a brighter auroral glow than one would expect.

Finally, the solar wind also had an east-west magnetic component. This isn’t especially unusual, but when applied to such a highly constricted auroral oval, it effectively pushed it, causing the aurora to spin. And voilà, a space hurricane.

(Via National Geographic.)

Here's an early reference from AE van Vogt's The Storm, published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1943:

On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters on the planet Kaider III, the storm was colored orange. Which meant it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. It showed as an uneven splotch fronting at Latitude 473, Longitude 228, Center 190 parsecs, but that was a special Fifty Suns degree system which had no relation to the magnetic center of the Magellanic Cloud as a whole.
(Read more at space weather map)

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