STEVE; "Strong Thermal Emissions Velocity Enhancement," Exists, No Idea Why it Exists

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 10 September 2019



Alongside the Milky Way
STEVE, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, Image courtesy of Krista Trinder and NASA.
The Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, AKA, "STEVE," visible as a pink band rising from the lower left to upper right of this photograph, appears with the Milky Way over Childs Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Scientists have recently confirmed STEVE is a unique phenomenon and not a kind of aurora, as previously thought. The picture is a composite of 11 images stitched together. Image courtesy of Krista Trinder and NASA. Big view.


More EM Fun

It's not aurora, it's STEVE,
University of Alaska Fairbanks, September 4, 2019.

What We Know
"Strong Thermal Emissions Velocity Enhancement"

"It's a new phenomenon, that's pretty exciting."

"Like auroras, STEVE's appearances vary greatly, showing up anywhere from weeks to months apart."

"...used a spectrograph to examine the light from the phenomenon and identify what kind of emissions it gives and in what patterns and wavelengths."

"We need to understand what the spectrum looks like and therefore understand the physics behind it."

Typical Aurora
"Aurora has individual wavelengths and acts like a neon sign. In aurora, electrons from our magnetosphere fly down, bumping into atoms and molecules in our atmosphere, which excites them. Once the excited particles relax they emit photons, which can be seen as specific wavelengths of light. Depending on which colors you see, you know certain lights came from a nitrogen molecule and others came from oxygen."

"When we looked at the spectrum of STEVE, it had none of those distinct wavelengths. Instead, it's a very broad band of light. So all wavelengths are basically equally as strong."

"This means that the light is not coming from atoms and molecules colliding in the atmosphere but from something very warm -- maybe thousands of degrees warm."

"So this is like very, very warm atmosphere emissions of some sort."

STEVE Exists
"Confirming the existence of a celestial phenomenon is exciting. The next, and more difficult step, is finding out what causes it and how it affects us."


Bottom Line

What It's Not
The above research does not tell us what or why STEVE is, but has revealed STEVE is not an aurora. Well, knowing STEVE exists, and is not an aurora, is a good start towards figuring out what it is.




Meet ‘Steve,’ a Totally New Kind of Aurora,
National Geographic, March 14, 2019.


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