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This is ‘Steve.’ It’s not the northern lights, but it’s just as spectacular

New celestial phenomenon ‘Steve’ lights up Alberta sky
Astronomers are buzzing with excitement over a new phenomenon known as "Steve." It can be seen five or six times a month. But as Robin Gill reports, don't confuse it with the northern lights.

Meet “Steve.”

That’s the name for a spectacular celestial phenomenon that defies definition.

It’s hard to believe that such a spectacular streak of purple light would go unnoticed.

But scientists have only recently taken note of it after it was spotted in the sky over Alberta by a group of aurora chasers who track the northern lights throughout the year.

“People have probably been taking pictures of it, images of it for probably approaching 100 years,” Eric Donovan, a University of Calgary astronomer, told Global News.

“I mean, millions of people would have seen this.”

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Steve likely forms when electrically-charged particles from the sun collide with magnetic energy found in Earth’s atmosphere.

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It streaks across the sky at a speed of approximately 21,600 km/h.

Steve also hits temperatures as high as 6,000 degrees Celsius, which is as hot as Earth’s core.

“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Sean A.J. Simmons

And that’s what separates Steve from the northern lights — auroras never heat up that much, Donovan said.

“I don’t want to call this aurora, but I think a lot of my colleagues do,” he said.

READ MORE: Solar storm produces bright northern lights across Western Canada

Steve probably wasn’t noticed because auroras can appear green, pink and purple.

But it may be in the family of auroras, said Derek Kief, an astronomer as the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

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“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Sean A.J. Simmons

Donovan hopes to work with Alberta Aurora Chasers, a group of photographers who take shots of the northern lights, to find out more about the chemistry happening inside Steve.

“I’m not trying to be funny, but the sky’s the limit here in terms of this,” he told Global News.

“This is just the beginning and I’m really excited.”

Here are some high-definition photos of Steve:

“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Roy Caturay

 

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“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Pierre-Luc Giroux

 

“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Jon Andersen

 

“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Jon Andersen

 

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“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky.
“Steve,” a new celestial phenomenon that’s been discovered in the night sky. Christy Turner