Citizen scientists captured images of the newly found light show
Meet STEVE, a newfound type of aurora that drapes the sky with a mauve ribbon and bedazzling green bling.
This feature of the northern lights, recently photographed and named by citizen scientists in Canada, now has a scientific explanation. The streak of color, which appears to the south of the main aurora, may be a visible version of a typically invisible process involving drifting charged particles, or ions, physicist Elizabeth MacDonald and colleagues report March 14 in Science Advances.
Measurements from ground-based cameras and a satellite that passed when STEVE was in full swing show that the luminous band was associated with a strong flow of ions in the upper atmosphere, MacDonald, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues conclude. But the researchers can’t yet say how a glow arises from this flow.