Earth’s northern and southern lights look magnificent. However, a newly discovered mysterious form of Aurora, dubbed STEVE, provides another wonderful view. STEVE can be seen in Alberta, Canada which displays beautiful textures of green and purple light in the night sky. Scientists are now looking into this mysterious light and trying to understand it and learn more about it.
What is particularly interesting about STEVE is that it was originally discovered by amateurs. A group of Aurora fans who take photos and videos of the night-sky spectacle, named it “Steve” after discovering it. They uploaded their photos and videos to a Facebook group called “Alberta Aurora Chasers.” Later, a researcher at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada contacted the amateur astronomers to confirm the aurora. According to the report from Space.com, the scientist and the group cross-referenced the pictures with the European Space Agency’s satellites.
The scientists offered an official name that could correspond with the one the citizen scientists chose. They found a new acronym that could match the originally given, STEVE: “Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.”
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The new form of Aurora is special for several reasons. It forms in different areas compared to those that form on the north and south poles. An electric field and magnetic field meet in the Canadian region where amateur scientists discovered STEVE. Those two fields drag the solar particles towards the west as they are coming together. Those dragged particles meet the neutral particles that warm up and produce light that spreads west across the sky.
The northern and southern lights can normally be seen near the north and south poles. On the other hand, this new form of Aurora is forming towards the equator and other warmer areas where the population is higher, which is why people in Alberta were able to clearly watch the spectacular show across the night sky. Perhaps, in the future, STEVE could become even more popular, as much as the northern and southern lights. One day, STEVE could become a tourist attraction where visitors could come and observe the magnificent event.
Development of new satellites that can capture the light are essential, as well as other scientific inquiries that could help scientists discover them and learn more about auroras. Nevertheless, in this case, it was the citizen scientists along with their communities that used their amateur cameras to capture an event as powerful as an aurora that brought attention to it.
These communities can show us the importance of discovering such interesting phenomenon, such as STEVE.
Also, based on the satellite views of STEVE, scientists can have a better understanding of Earth’s magnetic and electric fields and how they interact with other charged particles in Earth’s atmosphere. They published their findings in Science Advances.
“This is a light display that we can observe over thousands of kilometers from the ground,” Liz MacDonald, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said as per Phys.org. “It corresponds to something happening way out in space. Gathering more data points on STEVE will help us understand more about its behavior and its influence on space weather.”