Just over six years ago, a hurricane-like storm began to brew above us in space and we didn't know any different. Now years later, scientists suggest they've obtained evidence of what they're calling the first-ever "space hurricane," a phenomenon constructed of plasma in Earth's upper atmosphere.
The news comes through a study published in the latest issue of the Nature Communications journal. There, researchers say the space hurricane raged on back on August 20, 2014. Compared to an Earth-based hurricane that rains down water, the study says this cosmic storm displaced precipitated into our planet's upper atmosphere.
The storm was located over the North Pole and was generated by "steady high-latitude lobe magnetic reconnection and current continuity" for nearly eight hours in 2014. Because of its makeup, it wouldn't have been visible to the human eye. Better yet, the researchers involved in the study say that similar storms could theoretically happen on any planet that has a magnetic shield and a plasma-filled atmosphere.
"Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible," University of Reading's Mike Lockwood said in a statement. Lockwood served as one of the study's co-authors and added, "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."
"Plasma and magnetic fields in the atmosphere of planets exist throughout the universe, so the findings suggest space hurricanes should be a widespread phenomena," Lockwood added.
The study makes sure to point out that this particular "hurricane" is the first observed storm of its kind, it's entirely possible they've happened elsewhere among the cosmos.