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It’s Not Aurora, It’s STEVE

8 Sep 2019, 07:11 UTC
It’s Not Aurora, It’s STEVE
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Aurora-watchers gazing at spectacular displays over the Labor Day weekend may have been seeing more than the northern lights. They may have been dazzled by STEVE as well. STEVE is short for the Strong Thermal Emissions Velocity Enhancement, a celestial phenomenon auroral researchers, citizen-scientists and photography enthusiasts first introduced to the world in 2016.STEVE's narrow ribbon of light, to the naked eye, looks strikingly similar to aurora. However, there are distinct differences. First, its pinkish mauve color is not aurora-like. In addition, the phenomenon is often associated with "picket fence" emissions, which look like green columns of light passing through the ribbons at lower altitudes. Lastly, STEVE appears in areas farther south than auroral lights typically do.Scientists thought something didn't add up.This summer, researchers confirmed that STEVE is not aurora, but is instead a unique phenomenon. Their findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters."The big thing is, we can clearly say now it's not regular aurora," said University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Don Hampton, a co-author on the paper. "It's a new phenomenon, that's pretty exciting."The project, led by University of Calgary researcher D.M. Gillies, used a spectrograph to examine the light from the phenomenon and identify what ...

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