Apr 24, 2017 09:02 AM EDT
STEVE: European Space Agency Scientists Discover New Phenomenon [VIDEO]
A group of aurora enthusiasts called the Alberta Aurora Chasers have named a new type of light phenomenon. Steve, as they called it, is not a person but a uniquely names atmospheric phenomenon.
The University of Calgary Professor Eric Donovan and his colleagues from the European Space Agency spotted the feature in photos that were shared in Facebook. He said he did not recognize it as a catalogued phenomenon.
The Alberta Aurora Chasers, a Facebook group, assumed that it was a type of aurora called a photon arc. But photon arcs are actually invisible which is how Donovan noticed that it was something different.
It turns out Steve is a remarkably common phenomenon. Thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today's explosion of access to data, citizens and scientists were able to document it.
Testing showed that it appeared to be a hot stream of fast-flowing gas that is nestled in the highest reaches of the atmosphere. The ESA sent electric field instruments to measure the gas stream. Donovan said the temperature 300 km above the Earth's surface j umped by 3000 degrees Celsius, and their data showed a 25 km-wide ribbon of gas flowing westwards about 6km/s compared to a speed of about 10 m/s either side of the ribbon, The Daily Mail reported.
Little is known about the big purple light, but it appears that it is not an aurora. Scientists said it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth's magnetic field.
The Chasers named it Steve as homage to the 2006 animated movie "Over the Hedge." In the movie, the characters met a creature they've never encountered before and named it Steve, WISN reported.
Another member of the Chasers came up with a scientific acronym for Steve, which is the Sudden Thermal Emission from Velocity Enhancement. ESA Swarm scientist Roger Haagmans said they are glad to finally know Steve and it is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon that seen by observant citizens can trigger scientists' curiosity.
Join the Conversation