Just call that blue and purple ribbon in the sky STEVE
A new and strange atmospheric phenomenon is being seen in the skies around the world.
First observed by sky watchers in Alberta, Canada, in 2017, this strange ray of purple and blue light is often seen as a large arc or band in the night sky.
This is a new and very unique type of phenomenon that was first thought to be associated with the aurora.
Aurora are caused by charged particles from the sun which interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere and put on some amazing displays in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
The name for this new atmospheric phenomenon is known by the acronym “STEVE,” which stands for: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.
STEVE is thought to be a component of the ionosphere in that it resides at a height of some 280 miles above the Earth.
STEVE is primarily made up of extreme hot gases which excite atoms and glow with a most amazing purple glow.
Temperatures of well over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit have been detected inside these bright ribbons of gas.
Aurora are usually seen in the regions of both poles of the earth, but the STEVE sightings are occurring in regions that appear at both the pole and at lower latitudes too.
The best times to make any observations of STEVE would be near a new moon, when the light of the moon does not interfere with observations.
The first description of what the origin of STEVE was came from scientists who first believed that this was a caused by a proton storm.
Scientists now believe that this is not the case and the origin of STEVE must lie with a yet unknown source driving this energy, deep inside the ionosphere above the Earth.
STEVE is not to be confused with Airglow, another type of faint light which is seen in the darkest of locations.
Airglow is caused by excited atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere which can create a sort of greenish glow along the horizon.
Airglow is seen in many of the video feeds that come in from the International Space Station, as it sails around the Earth.
It is way too early to understand the true nature of this new and amazing sight in the night sky.
So, if you look to the night sky over Canada on a clear and moonless night and see the amazing Northern Lights, you may be looking at STEVE, as a bright purple band of light which is also seen in the night sky.
Here is an image of STEVE.
And yet another image.
Here is a short video on STEVE.
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
- October offers the best celestial treats, including harvest and blue moons
- Here is your 2020 Mars observation guide for Arizona
- 2 ice giant planets, including Neptune, come into view in September
- Center of Milky Way will be on view for Arizona skywatchers
- Now is good time to see Perseid meteor shower as it shoots across sky