People have observed Steve in the northern Canadian skies for decades. Always believed to be one of the northern lights, which appear in wide, wavy bands of green, reds, and blue; Steve is more of a very long, thin, purple and white light that shoots straight up into the sky, with a height of more than 600 miles.
When a European Space Agency satellite passed through Steve, it recorded fast moving speeds, and phenomenally hot gas cutting through the atmosphere. At that time, very hot Steve was approximately 200 miles above the Earth, and its insides were afire at 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius).
And now we have learned tall and hot Steve is not an ordinary Aurora. Just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, new research shows whatever made Steve used a different set of rules than the solar particles that created the Aurora Borealis.
An even more interesting fact about this research is, while realizing Steve is not an Aurora, but something completely different, scientists are unable to figure out what it is. So far, it is a complete unknown, but for the sake of discussion, it is being called a “sky glow”.
In their study, researchers stated, “Based on our results, we assert that Steve is likely related to an ionospheric process”. They plan on conducting more research, including observations of the Earth’s atmosphere taken at varying levels.
In the meantime, all you stargazers in the northern parts of the world need to keep up your good work. It was dedicated bands of citizen skywatchers in Northern Canada, such as the Facebook group, Alberta Aurora Chasers, observing and tracking this most unusual sight, who eventually gave it the name, Steve. Researchers decided to keep the name, but officially changed it to an acronym for “Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement”.
Yes. Keep looking up, and you too may find yourselves naming a new miracle-like phenomenon in the sky. After all, Steve probably would like a little company as it continues to show off all its glory to those watching from below.