A group of Canadian photographers passionate about capturing aurora images discovered a new and astounding astronomical phenomenon. After much research and a lot of excitement spiced around the cosmic event, they also decided to name it. Of course, they chose an amusing name, so they called the beautiful gleam of light Steve.
Aurora photographers spotted a unique phenomenon
While they were out to photograph auroras, a group of amateur sky enthusiasts from Alberta, Canada, spotted a colorful gleam in the sky which resembled an aurora, but was somehow different. These people, together with some other photographers, usually shared their pictures on the Facebook page called “Alberta Aurora Chasers”.
They all thought that this phenomenon was distinct than what they had been witnessing so far, so they decided to investigate further. After twelve months and more than 50 such instances captured in Alaska, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand, they decided that the peculiar phenomenon was probably a proton arc. This is when they decided to call it Steve.
Some thought that the name was given in honor of Steven Hawking. However, they said that this actually represented a tribute to the movie ‘Over the Hedge’ from 2006. There, the main characters also witness an event which was previously unknown to them, and give it the same name.
Scientists helped classify Steve
After some time, Eric Donovan, professor at the University of Calgary, stumbled upon photographs of Steve on social media. Then, he knew that what the photographers had been witnessing was not a proton arc, but an entirely new phenomenon. He said that it could not have been a proton arc, as they are invisible.
He, together with the European Space Agency, studied Steve more carefully and determined what phenomenon it represented. The beautiful beams of light were produced by hot gas flowing fast in the higher layers of our atmosphere.
It is situated 190 miles above Earth’s surface and is much hotter than the air surrounding it. More precisely, its temperature is 3000 degrees higher. Also, it flows 600 times faster than the air which encompasses it on both sides.
Roger Haagmans, one of the scientists at the European Space Agency, says that, despite us never noticing it, such an event is quite common. However, Steve is not an aurora. Auroras are produced by particles charged with electricity which are dragged down by the magnetic field from Earth’s poles.
Image Source: Flickr