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STEVE Is Back, And Weirder Than Ever

Steve streaks

The mysterious, aurora-like phenomenon called STEVE just got a little weirder. If you don’t know STEVE (short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) by name, you may know it from photos. Unlike the infamous Southern and Northern Lights, which blanket the sky in ethereal green swirls near Earth’s magnetic poles, STEVE appears as a purplish-white ribbon of light that slashes diagonally toward the horizon, stretching hundreds of miles through the atmosphere. It can appear closer to the equator than a typical aurora, and is often accompanied by a “picket fence” of jagged green points dancing beside it. Nobody knows what … Read more

“Steve” Has Finally Been Solved

Steve - Live Science

Three years ago, a mysterious purplish glow arced across the Canadian skies. The light show was a completely unknown celestial phenomenon, so it was given a name befitting its beauty and grandeur: Steve. Now, scientists have finally pinpointed what causes the phenomenon’s glowing ribbons of reddish purple and green: magnetic waves, winds of hot plasma and showers of electrons in regions they normally never appear. While aurora glows occur when electrons and protons fall into Earth’s atmosphere, “the STEVE atmospheric glow comes from heating without particle precipitation,” study co-author Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, a space physicist at the University of Calgary in … Read more

A Beautiful “Dragon” Aurora Appeared Over Iceland

Dragon Aurora - Live Science

A gargantuan green dragon hisses in the sky over Iceland. Either “Game of Thrones” really upped its production budget for its final season, or the sun belched a barrage of charged particles into our atmosphere again. As much as any of us would like to see a real dragon breathe flames into the winter sky, buzzkill NASA blames solar activity — as usual — for the writhing, “fire-breathing”- aurora that loomed over Iceland earlier this month. Auroras like this occur when some of the sun’s many magnetic field lines twist together and burst, creating sunspots. Charged particles gush out of … Read more

SCIENCE: Meet Steve, the Happy Sky Glow

Steve - Live Science

Late at night on July 25, 2016, a thin river of purple light slashed through the skies of northern Canada in an arc that seemed to stretch hundreds of miles into space. It was a magnificent, mysterious, borderline-miraculous sight, and the group of citizen skywatchers who witnessed it decided to give the phenomenon a fittingly majestic name: “Steve.” Given its coincidence with the northern lights, Steve was just thought to be part of the aurora — the shimmering sheets of nighttime color that appear in the sky when charged plasma particles streak out of the sun, sail across space on … Read more