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.
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.
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.