Steve

More sky phenomenon named ‘STEVE’; caught on camera in Canada

STEVE has appeared more frequently recently. Here’s what I’ve learned about STEVE recently.

STEVE is a show in the sky, to put it simply. Originally Steve was thought to be a form of the Northern Lights. It is understood that STEVE is not actually a part of the Northern Lights, it is a sky light show in itself.

STEVEs appear as purple or green streaks in the sky, caused by fast-moving streams of hot plasma.

“Amateur astronomer Chris Tatzlaff suggested the name ‘Steve’ from the movie ‘Over the Hedge,’ a character chosen for the unknown in this animated comedy,” said astronomer Mike Murray, program director at the Delta College Planetarium. “Eventually, STEVE formed an acronym to try to describe what was going on. STEVE is now an acronym for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

In other words, Murray said, STEVE is now thought to be an atmospheric phenomenon caused by superheated gas at an altitude of about 280 miles. Murray noted that typical auroras occur at much lower elevations. STEVEs are likely high-energy electrons that flow into the ionosphere in large numbers. The friction of these electrons with the atmosphere overheats the air molecules into plasma. Electrons may be traveling at 10,000 to 15,000 miles per hour.

Now, skywatchers know what to look for and can catch Steve on camera even as far away as central Michigan.

Astronomer Alan Dyer of AmazingSky.com captured STEVE from a very vantage point in Alberta, Canada, to observe auroras and other sky phenomena.

In the photo, Alan Dyer wrote: “Portrait of the infamous STEVE thermal gas arc associated with active auroras, here is shown an ephemeral appearance of his distinctive pink and green picket fingers, which are often seen from the main arc . This night Green Finger lasts no more than two minutes. STEVE = Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhanced, is a river of hot gas flowing from east to west in the direction of the main auroral belt equator. This is a single image tracked straight up, Then frame the summer triangular star and the Milky Way on the right. Moonlight from the falling gibbous moon illuminates the sky, as does the bright northern aurora. This is using a Canon R5 at ISO 1250 and RF15-35mm lens f/ 3.2, camera on Star Adventurer Mini tracker. Focus is a bit soft, but image illustrates the phenomenon. This frame is part of a short time-lapse sequence. (Photo by Alan Dyer/amazingsky.com)Image © Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.co

Steve

In the photo, Alan Dyer wrote: “Portrait of the infamous STEVE thermal gas arc associated with active auroras, here is shown an ephemeral appearance of his distinctive pink and green picket fingers, which are often seen from the main arc .This night Green Finger lasts no more than two minutes. STEVE = Intensified Thermal Emission Velocity, is a river of thermal gas flowing from east to west in the direction of the main aurora belt equator. STEVE occurs after the main Kp5 aurora in northward activity Fading out, this is typical behavior of STEVE. He only appeared for 35 to 40 minutes, again typical. This is an untracked straight-up image and used fisheye for most of the summer sky footage. From the falling The moonlight of the rising moon illuminates the sky, and the bright auroras to the north are also visible to the left. The stars of the Great Summer Triangle are in the center of the zenith; Jupiter is the bright object rising in the lower left of the south and east. This is Canon Ra at ISO 1600 and TTArtisan 7.5 mm lens exposed at 20 seconds at f/2. This frame is part of a time-lapse sequence.” (Photo by Alan Dyer/amazingsky.com)Image © Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.co

Dyer said he doesn’t usually see Steve at the end of the Northern Lights show, but when the activity subsides after a substorm.

We can see Steve in Michigan. Dale, who is from further north Alberta, said the upper peninsula is “primarily auroral country”.

STEVE was seen, photographed and documented in Thumb in Central Michigan. Mike Murray said he met Steve twice at Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin. His friend Dr. Axel Mellinger of Central Michigan University recorded STEVE there on May 27-28, 2017.

Steve

Steve at Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin on May 27-28, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Axel Mellinger, Central Michigan University)

Allendel shares a tip if we want to meet STEVE. He said not to pack up and go home after the Northern Lights show. STEVE may appear 30 to 45 minutes after the Northern Lights stop. He said most people are home at this point and miss Steve.

Dyer said STEVE is more common now because skygazers know what to look for.

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