Those glowing swirls by the North Pole? They’re just space hurricanes.

We have another scientific marvel for Hollywood to someday butcher: space hurricanes.

Last year, scientists announced they had discovered cyclone-like auroras near the North Pole. Over 600 miles in diameter with multiple arms that rotate counterclockwise, they contain a calm center, or eye, and “rain” electrons into the upper atmosphere. The team dubbed them “space hurricanes” for their 3D funnel shape.

“[They’re] occurring where nobody looked and occurring under conditions where nobody thought anything was happening,” said Larry Lyons, who is co-author of a study on the space hurricanes as well as a space physicist at UCLA. “It’s just a matter of opening your eyes.”

In a new study, researchers shed even more light on these mysterious phenomena, showing when, where and how they occur in unprecedented detail.

Auroras are one of the most visible manifestations of the sun’s impact on Earth, as their soft glow is caused by particles from the sun exciting molecules in our upper atmosphere. The identification of this new type of aurora highlights another highway that solar particles can ride and transfer large amounts of energy into Earth’s system — entering at higher latitudes than typical auroras.

Space hurricanes, in other words, are like Cap’n Crunch’s Chocolate Caramel Crunch cereal: They resemble the original but have their own flavor. (Also, you probably did not know either existed before this article.)


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