Meet STEVE, The Mysterious Lights In The Sky Puzzling Scientists : NPR

Meet STEVE, The Mysterious Lights In The Sky Puzzling Scientists : NPR

Alberta Aurora Chasers captured STEVE in April in British Columbia, Canada. STEVE is the slender ribbon of white-purple hues overhead, and the colourful inexperienced mild on the precise is an aurora positioned additional north.



Ryan Sault


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Ryan Sault

Alberta Aurora Chasers captured STEVE in April in British Columbia, Canada. STEVE is the slender ribbon of white-purple hues overhead, and the colourful inexperienced mild on the precise is an aurora positioned additional north.



Ryan Sault

There’s a light-weight within the night time sky over Canada that is puzzling scientists. It appears like a white-purple ribbon. It’s extremely popular, and does not final lengthy. And it is named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists do not really know what’s inflicting the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been identified to beginner photographers of the night time sky for many years however solely just lately got here to the eye of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it undoubtedly is not. It’s not an aurora.

An aurora is a phenomenon that causes components of the sky at excessive latitudes to glow colours comparable to inexperienced, blue or crimson. It has to do with electrons and protons from a area across the Earth referred to as the magnetosphere.

“These charged, energetic particles sometimes are able to rain down into the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and when they do they produce these displays of colors that we call an aurora,” says Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, an area physicist on the University of Calgary who is among the authors of the examine.

So, the researchers set out to determine whether or not STEVE is brought on by particle precipitation, the primary hallmark of an aurora.

They searched satellite tv for pc information archives for an occasion when a satellite tv for pc was crossing an space experiencing STEVE, and located a great instance from a NOAA satellite tv for pc throughout an occasion in japanese Canada in March 2008.

“We didn’t see any evidence of these particles,” Gallardo-Lacourt mentioned. “So that gave us a clue that STEVE might not be produced in the same sense that an aurora is produced.”

The examine concludes that STEVE is “clearly distinct” from an aurora and “its skyglow could be generated by a new and fundamentally different mechanism in the ionosphere.”

STEVE has extra mysteries. She says it is unclear what produces STEVE, which is inside a stream of very fast-moving and scorching fuel. The scientists need to take spectrographic measurements of STEVE, which is able to assist them to determine the altitude within the ambiance the place it kinds.

And STEVE seems at decrease latitudes than auroras do, Gallardo-Lacourt says, however auroras and STEVE should have a relationship. She notes that STEVE is “usually associated with a lot of auroral activity at higher latitudes, so one of the questions that we are evaluating is how the activity happening at higher latitudes can help the ionosphere to create the correct conditions for STEVE to form.”

Gallardo-Lacourt says the scientific neighborhood discovered about STEVE when a NASA scientist was chatting in 2016 with a bunch of beginner photographers referred to as the Alberta Aurora Chasers.

The aurora chasers had been calling the phenomenon a “proton arc,” which the scientists thought was not an correct description. So they requested the aurora chasers to select a unique title, they usually settled on “Steve.”

Before it was an acronym, it was a reference to a scene within the 2006 youngsters’s film Over the Hedge.

In it, a bunch of animals stand dumbfounded subsequent to what to them is one other awe-inspiring phenomenon – a backyard hedge.

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“What is this thing?” one creature says. “I’m scared,” one other mutters.

“I’d be a lot less afraid of it if I just knew what it was called.”

A squirrel blurts out: “Let’s call it Steve.” The animals breathe a sigh of aid.

“I love the name,” says Gallardo-Lacourt. “It shows the connection between citizen scientists and the formal scientists.”

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