Introduction – Could the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in Costa Rica set off a hurricane in California? Chaos theorists, stock-market analysts and weather forecasters have scrutinized the question for decades. For million people, this hypothetical scenario may be unconditional to imagine on Earth, until and unless when a real disaster strikes.
Study – The study, published on September 19 in the Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics, proffers the first detailed description of the mechanism by which solar wind fluctuations can alter the properties of so-called space hurricanes, affecting how plasma is transferred into the Earth’s magnetic shield, or magnetosphere.
Process – Those “hurricanes” are organized by a phenomenon known as Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability. As plasma from the Sun (solar wind) swipes across the Earth’s magnetic boundary, it can produce large vortices (about 10,000-40,000 kilometers in size) along the boundary layer, exclaimed by the researchers and scientist, Nykyri .
When solar wind speeds are faster, the fluctuations are more powerful, and they seek larger space hurricanes that can transport more plasma. Gaining deeper insights into how solar wind conditions affect space hurricanes may someday furnished better space-weather prediction and set the stage for guarded satellite navigation through radiation belts. This is because solar wind can animate ultra-low frequency (ULF) waves by triggering KH instability, which can enliven radiation belt particles.
Phenomenon – Space hurricanes are universal phenomena, occurring at the boundary layers of Coronal Mass Ejections giant balls of plasma exploding from the Sun’s hot atmosphere in the magnetospheres of Jupiter, Saturn and other planets noted by the researchers. “KH waves can change the direction and properties of Coronal Mass Ejections, which eventually affect near-Earth space weather,” researcher Nykyri explained. “For accurate space weather prediction, it is critical to understand the detailed mechanisms that affect the growth and properties of space hurricanes”.
Discovery – Furthermore, in addition to playing a role in transporting energy and mass, a recent discovery by researchers and her graduate student Thomas W. Moore shows that KH waves also provide an signficant way of heating plasma by millions of degrees Fahrenheit (Moore et al., Nature Physics, 2016), and therefore may be important for solar coronal heating. It might also be adopted for transport barrier generation in fusion plasmas.For the current research, simulations were based on seven years’ worth of measurements of the amplitude and velocity of solar wind fluctuations at the edge of the magnetosphere, as apprehend by NASA’s THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) spacecraft.