Project Aurorasaurus: NASA Seeks Help From Citizen Scientists In Studying STEVE


Steve, as it is called by sky watchers and amateur Aurora chasers in Calgary, Canada, is a strand of purple light that extends from east to west.

At times, neon green lights intertwine with purple lights, making the phenomenon even more mysterious.

After a recent study confirmed that Steve is a new and rare form of Aurora, space agency NASA wants citizen scientists and amateur sky watchers to help document STEVE in the sky.

Project Aurorasaurus

From 2015 to 2016, citizen scientists from Alberta Aurora Chasers group collaborated with a team of scientists for a NASA-funded project called Aurorasaurus that tracked Steve through user-submitted reports and tweets.

NASA is now opening the citizen science project Aurorasaurus to the public and encourages gathering and submissions of photos to help scientists study the phenomenon of Auroras and now, STEVE.

According to NASA, the ongoing research about STEVE is providing a new visual identifier to help track the chemical and physical processes going on in near Earth's space.

Relevant information gathered about STEVE can help researchers better understand the space weather near Earth, which can interfere with satellites and communications signals.

"It corresponds to something happening way out in space. Gathering more data points on STEVE will help us understand more about its behavior and its influence on space weather," says Elizabeth MacDonald of NASA's Space Goddard Center.

Scientists are still studying to know more about how the normal Aurora and STEVE are connected.

From Steve to STEVE

When amateur aurora hobbyist Chris Ratzlaff saw the skylights and informed other Aurora chasers about it. Ratzlaff's suggested calling the swirling lights Steve, then the name has stuck.

The purple and green skylights are also referred to as Steve even by scientists that studied it based on photographs taken by all-sky cameras.

The new study on the celestial phenomenon proposed to retain the name Steve for the newly-discovered proton arc but with a different acronym. STEVE now stands for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

STEVE ions flow from east to west closer to the Equator as compared to the aurora borealis that is usually located in the northern hemisphere.

On occasions, STEVE indicates magnetic field-aligned substructures associated with sub auroral ion drift. SAID is a fast-moving stream of extremely hot particles. SAID occurs from interactions between charged solar particles and the Earth's magnetosphere.

How To Spot STEVE?

STEVE appears as a narrow subauroral visible structure that is distinct from the traditional auroral oval.

To aid sky watchers in their STEVE hunting, NASA gave some pointers and clues. It appears approximately 5 to 10 degrees farther south in the Northern Hemisphere. The lights could be seen overhead at latitudes similar to Calgary, Canada.

STEVE appears as a very narrow arc, almost like a thin ribbon of purple light. It is aligned from east to west, with the band of light extending to hundreds and even thousands of miles.

The lights can be seen in the sky for 20 minutes to an hour and usually occurs at midnight.

Sightings of STEVE has also been reported in United Kingdom, Canada, Alaska, northern U.S. states, and New Zealand.

This rare phenomenon is not visible throughout the year and may only be observed in certain seasons.

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