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Amateur astronomer's photograph used in the new research. The photograph was taken on May 8, 2016, in Keller, Wash. The major structures are two bands of upper atmospheric emissions 160 kilometers (100 miles) above the ground, a mauve arc and green picket fence. The black objects at the bottom are trees. The background star constellations include Gemini and Ursa Major. Credit: Rocky Raybell.
The celestial phenomenon known as STEVE is likely caused by a combination of heating of charged particles in the atmosphere and energetic electrons like those that power the aurora, according to new research. In a new study, scientists found STEVE's source region in space and identified two mechanisms that cause it.
Year - Lights - Internet - Sensation - Auroras
Last year, the obscure atmospheric lights became an internet sensation. Typical auroras, the northern and southern lights, are usually seen as swirling green ribbons spreading across the sky. But STEVE is a thin ribbon of pinkish-red or mauve-colored light stretching from east to west, farther south than where auroras usually appear. Even more strange, STEVE is sometimes joined by green vertical columns of light nicknamed the "picket fence."
Auroras are produced by glowing oxygen and nitrogen atoms in Earth's upper atmosphere, excited by charged particles streaming in from the near-Earth magnetic environment called the magnetosphere. Scientists didn't know if STEVE was a kind of aurora, but a 2018 study found its glow is not due to charged particles raining down into Earth's upper atmosphere.
Authors - Study - STEVE - Kind - Aurora
The authors of the 2018 study dubbed STEVE a kind of "sky-glow" that is distinct from the aurora, but were unsure exactly what was causing it. Complicating the matter was the fact that STEVE can appear during solar-induced magnetic storms around Earth that power the brightest auroral lights.
Authors of a new study published in AGU's journal Geophysical Research Letters analyzed satellite data and ground images of...
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