New Astronomical Phenomenon Discovered! A Type Of Light In The Night Sky Called Steve

First Posted: Apr 24, 2017 06:26 AM EDT

Aurora photographers and citizen scientists have discovered a new astronomical and atmospheric phenomenon. At present, very little is actually known about the new discovery that is being referred to as “Steve.”

According to an ABC News report, the light has usually been known as a proton arc among aurora watchers. However, when an associate professor from Canada’s University of Calgary -- Eric Donovan -- saw the photos, he realized that the captured images could not be of a proton arc. Neither is proton aurora visible nor could the professor recognize the light captured in the photo as any classified phenomenon.

Therefore, Donovan along with a team of colleagues took the help of the European Space Agency’s Swarm to know more about the hitherto unknown phenomenon. Incidentally, Swarm is a constellation of satellites that studies Earth’s magnetic field.

The phenomenon was discovered to be an instance of Steve, after analyzing ground sightings of the arc and matching it to Swarm's movements. A Swarm satellite registered a temperature rise of 3,000 degrees Celsius 300 kilometers above the planet’s surface while flying through the phenomenon.

"It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we had not noticed it before," Donovan said, according to a BBC News report. "It is thanks to satellites, ground-based observations, today's explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it."

So, how was the name Steve settled on for the moment? According to the ABC News report, the name is in reference to the movie Over the Hedge where Steve is used to refer to things that the characters in the movie do not recognize or are not sure of. Some citizen scientists have also tried to make more sense of keeping Steve as the name by expanding on it -- such as the suggestion of Sudden Thermal Emission from Velocity Enhancement.

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