In the northern hemisphere, a new entity has arrived. Researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada named it Steve. As it turns out, Steve is a bunch of hot gas moving quicker than the surrounding air. This new phenomenon was discovered when the scientists went out to observe the Aurora Borealis and found Steve instead. To confirm the findings, the European Space Agency (ESA) sent three of its Swarm satellites to examine the phenomenon in the atmosphere.
Steve is very likely to be similar to an aurora where the displays of light are created by the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind from the sun. With auroras, the magnetosphere is disturbed by the solar wind causing the beautiful displays of light in the northern and southern hemispheres. The charged particles energy is lost when an aurora occurs.
The Swarm satellites took pictures of Steve and then compared them with those taken on the ground. Eric Donovan, a researcher from the University of Calgary, said there were “very clear changes” when the Swarm satellites flew through it, according to The Space Reporter. Steve was “distinctive” with a purple-green vertical streak. ESA’s Swarm satellites also recorded temperatures that were more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit while the “ribbon of gas flowing” quickly, Space.com reported.
While Steve is a common occurrence, this was the first time it was observed. Donovan thanked the researchers on the ground, ESA satellites, the access to data, and “an army of citizen scientists” to document Steve. According to a statement from the ESA, with the presence of social media, more Steves will likely be identified.
Donovan first heard of Steve through the Facebook group, Alberta Aurora Chasers who had first taken the photograph of the phenomenon. From there, he asked the members to comb through the group’s pictures while the ESA verified the incident. Before being named Steve, it was referred to as “proton arcs.” But soon enough, Donovan said that this was not the case.
Using modern technology, researchers and scientists can begin to “narrow down where this kind of aurora comes from.” He continued to say that twenty years ago, researchers could not have “pinpointed” something new and would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to research. Now with the help of “citizen scientists” and modern data, “it was possible to close the loop in a matter of weeks.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Twitter