Researchers Discover the Source Which Powers STEVE Aurora

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STEVE aurora has fascinated researchers since it was spotted for the first time as it looks and behaves like an Aurora, but there are some big differences between the phenomena.

A classic aurora, also known as the northern or southern lights, based upon the hemisphere in which is observed, takes places when waves of charged particles which come from the sun encounter oxygen and nitrogen molecules that are found in the atmosphere and begin to glow.
STEVE, which was known in the past under the name of Strong Thermal Vision Velocity Enhancement, is a bit different. The phenomenon can be a spot in the Northern Hemisphere in areas which are farther from the south in comparison to zones where the aurora can be seen. It also looks different, appearing in the form of a pink or purple ribbon of light. In some cases, green columns of light traverse the ribbons.

This picket-fence effect may be caused by a similar mechanism which powers conventional auroras. The purple light takes places when the charged particles reach a high temperature in the upper layers of the atmosphere, an event which happens beyond the borders of the aural limit.

Researchers Discover the Source Which Powers STEVE Aurora

Many researchers were puzzled by the elusive origins of STEVE. The phenomenon was observed for the first time in 2016 by Canadian researchers. A study published in 2018 noted that the unique glow effect isn’t generated by the charged particles which reach the atmosphere. It was also mentioned that STEVE could appear at the same time as auroras, which further complicates the task of differentiating between them.

A new study employed satellite data which was recorded above STEVE events from April 2008 to 2016. The data sets included measurements of the magnetic and electrical fields found in the magnetosphere. This information was compared with photos provided by amateur photographers from the ground level.

The researchers discovered that waves of particles which pass through the ionosphere interact with electrons and force them to abandon the magnetosphere, creating the picket-fence effect. The results were published in a scientific journal.


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