STEVE, a mystery unravelled by citizen scientists


Recently, scientists have been able to discover a phenomenon which resembles the aurora borealis (appearance of colourful patterns of light in the sky near southern and northern poles) and the major contribution of this discovery goes to an observance of citizen scientists.

On July 25, 2016, Notanee Bourassa, a local resident of Regina, Canada went out on an
expedition with his children to show them beautiful moving lights and when he observed
something strange. Been seeing the aurora from past 30 years he realized that this isn’t Aurora.

It is something else. This phenomenon was later named as STEVE (Strong thermal emission velocity enhancement) by a Facebook page “Alberta Aurora Chasers”. The uniqueness of Steve is in the details. While Steve goes through the same large-scale
creation process as an Aurora, it travels along different magnetic field lines than the aurora.

All-sky cameras showed that Steve appears at much lower latitudes. That means the
charged particles that create Steve connect to magnetic field lines that are closer to Earth’s equator, hence why Steve is often seen in southern Canada.

There is something happening in near-Earth space that leads to both an aurora and Steve. Steve might be the only visual clue that exists to show a chemical or physical connection between the higher latitude auroral zone and lower latitude sub-auroral zone.

“Steve can help us understand how the chemical and physical processes in Earth’s upper
the atmosphere can sometimes have local noticeable effects in lower parts of Earth’s
the atmosphere” said MacDonald, a space scientist at NASA.


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