Science

Introducing ‘Steve’, a newly discovered northern lights

Introducing 'Steve', a newly discovered northern lights

Stargazers, space observers and enthusiasts, and whomsoever get fascinated by mesmerizing celestial events are always on the lookout for light shows, sightings, star gazing and more. If you are one of ‘em, you must be familiar with the Aurora Borealis which is a marvelous light show displayed in the northern regions that produces beautiful color patterns when electrons discharge and fall back into the Earth’s atmosphere which is a complex procedure, Until now, you must have heard about Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights and Aurora Australis or Southern Lights but observers and amateur scientists have recently captured a new kind of this phenomenon event in the Northern region. It is touted as “Steve” as it is a newly discovered kind of aurora borealis which is totally breathtaking.

Per the reports, auroras are a combination of magnetic fields, solar winds, and electrical currents, auroras in both the poles have been studied extensively in the past few years. However, this newly discovered northern light “Steve” is bit different when compared to Aurora Borealis. Steve displays narrow ribbons of vivid colors consisting of green and purple hue which can be seen as far as east-west at latitudes closer to the equator of the Earth. The phenomena are sought to happen at twice the altitude in the sky where regular auroras happen.

The world of science, physics, astronomy which is the first pace with new discoveries happening every fortnight, nothing much has been discovered about the auroras for the past 20 years or so. This time, a group of Aurora watchers gathers in a specific place in Canada and the credit for photographing the newly discovered aurora “Steve” goes to this team. The discovery attracted a lot of acclaim including recognition by scientists at a symposium in 2016. The research paper was drafted under the title “Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement” which got published in the journal Science Advances.

When the group of aurora watchers came across “Steve”, they misunderstood it as a Proton arc which is caused due to protons and not electrons as it auroras. This led to a collaboration between professional scientists and group of aurora chasers based in Canada from where Steve was identified as a newly discovered kind of Aurora. According to Eric Donovan, an aurora researcher at the University of Calgary, Steve is caused at an altitude of 450 km when a ribbon of hot gases 25 km wide gets warm at a temperature of 3000° Celsius with wind speed at 6 km/s which creates this celestial phenomenon which although isn’t rare but it is one of the subjects that wasn’t studied in detail previously.

The reason why it formed is suggested as rivers of electrically charged particles flowing in the upper atmosphere called as subauroral ion drifts. This creates a ribbon which is visible to naked eyes. However, the subject is in a debate where some scientists believe that it can be a form of airglow where the upper atmosphere releases a tiny amount of light after being warmed by the Earth’s surface and the Sun. The discovery was made by a group without any science background and then, it was analyzed by researchers in detail.

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