A new study has just determined that STEVE, also known as Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, is absolutely not an aurora and is still a mystery that continues to puzzle scientists.
As Live Science have reported, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Calgary in Canada have analyzed STEVE and don’t believe that there are any charged particles involved, careening through the atmosphere of the Earth in the way that auroras normally do.
Space physicist Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, who was the lead author of the new study, noted that while STEVE may not be an aurora, scientists still do not know exactly what it is, which is actually rather intriguing.
“Our main conclusion is that STEVE is not an aurora. So right now, we know very little about it. And that’s the cool thing.”
To those who live in northern areas, STEVE is a sky glow that has been visible for decades now, but it was only this year that saw the phenomenon acknowledged and written about, which was in large part due to groups like the Alberta Aurora Chasers.
STEVE was noted to be quite different from a regular aurora, as these normally bathe large sections of the skies with bold reds, greens and blues. This new sky glow that was observed usually appeared in the heavens in a long, thin streak, emitting a white-purple light. And, in marked contrast to the Northern Lights, STEVE often extends for 600 miles in a vertical fashion, which is quite different from the more wavy Northern Lights.
To properly analyze the sky glow, scientists looked at images that were taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites. Gallardo-Lacourt explained that whatever STEVE may be, for now it is still “completely unknown,” and she and other researchers are now calling it a sky glow.
In a statement that was released on Monday, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) stated that the conclusions of the new study were “really interesting because we haven’t figured it out and when you get a new problem, it’s always exciting. It’s like you think you know everything, and it turns out you don’t.”
“In the new study, researchers analyzed a STEVE event in March 2008 to see whether it was produced in a similar manner as the aurora, which happens when showers of charged particles rain down into Earth’s upper atmosphere. The study’s results suggest STEVE is produced by a different atmospheric process than the aurora, making it an entirely new type of optical phenomenon.”
The new study which has determined that STEVE is not an aurora has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.