In the darkness of Sunday night and Monday morning (August 7 and August 8), a surprising solar storm (opens in a new tab) slammed into Earth, showering our planet in a rapid stream of charged particles from the Sun.
The clash of sun and earth particles i Worldand caused this wonderful atmosphere auraras seen at a much lower latitude than usual — and, in southern Canada, it prompted a surprise cameo from the mysterious sky phenomenon known as STEVE.
Alan Dyer, an astronomy writer and photographer based in southern Alberta, Canada, captured the green and violet ribbons of light on camera as they shot across the sky.
Amazing display of @STEVEPhenomena last night, August 7-8, streaking across the sky, briefly showing its green finger for about 2 minutes. Steve lasted about 40 minutes, appearing as the northern Kp5 aurora faded. This was 12:30 am MDT from southern Alberta. @TweetAurora pic.twitter.com/EtKF6udfFkAugust 8, 2022
“Steve lasted about 40 minutes, appearing as the … aurora went north,” Dyer wrote on Twitter (opens in a new tab) on August 8. “ Steve Russian Bank-compliant based Steve “Steve” here has enjoyed appearing here more than anywhere else!”
Related: The earliest documented aurora is found in an ancient Chinese text (opens in a new tab)
As Dyer noted, citizen scientists and aurora hunters first described the strange sky glow known as STEVE in northern Canada in 2017. STEVE usually consists of a giant ribbon of purplish light, which can hang in the sky for an hour or more, accompanying him. at a “picket fence” of green light that usually disappears within a few minutes.
The glowing river of light may look like an aurora, but it is actually a unique phenomenon that was considered “completely unknown (opens in a new tab)” to science when it is discovered. Today, scientists have a slightly better idea of what is going on.
STEVE (short for “strong thermal velocity enhancement”) is a long thin hot line. gas which stretches through the sky for hundreds of miles. The hot air inside STEVE can burn at more than 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius) and move about 500 times faster than the air on either side of it, satellite observations have shown.
Because the northern lights occur when charged solar particles collide with molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, STEVE appears much lower in the sky, in a region known as the subaural zone. That means that solar particles are unlikely to be direct responsible for STEVE (opens in a new tab), Live Science previously reported. However, STEVE is almost always seen during solar storms like Sunday, appearing after the northern lights begin to fade.
Any hypothesis (opens in a new tab) suggests that STEVE is the result of a sudden burst of thermal and kinetic energy in the subauroral zone, somehow triggered by the clash of charged particles higher in the atmosphere during Aurora-induced solar storms. However, more research is needed to uncover Steve’s true secrets. In the meantime, we can simply move in another glow in the world and wave back to his green fingers lapping.
It was originally published on Live Science.