Sun Explosions & Space Hurricanes: The Silent Threat to Global Communications Systems

Staff Writer | RT | September 26, 2017

Plasma regularly escapes from the sun through eruptions on our star’s surface. Thankfully, the Earth is protected from these high energy particles due to the planet’s magnetic field – but they can result in potentially catastrophic ‘space hurricanes'. Even the smallest of particles exploding off the sun can have a huge impact in the development of so-called space hurricanes, due to a phenomenon known as the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability. It means a dense radiation zone, known as the Van Allen belts, created by solar wind particles, effectively lays siege to the Earth.

Space Hurricanes

While the charged materials are unable to reach into Earth’s atmosphere, turbulence brewing outside could potentially impact humankind in other ways. Anomalies known as ‘space hurricanes’ have the potential to knock out communications and even impede manned space missions. Just like on Earth, the hurricanes formed by the accumulation of heat energy can have devastating impacts.

Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability

Researchers from the US, UK and Finland studying the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability found that the phenomenon, whereby materials with different velocities pass one another, can trigger such vortices. Like ripples created by wind passing over water, instability caused by the sun’s plasma bouncing off Earth’s magnetic field has the potential to grow and form bands of heat energy approximately 67,000km (42,000 miles) above the Earth’s surface...