A new atmospheric phenomenon has been discovered by citizen scientists, who have named it “Steve” in the absence of knowing anything else about it.
Described as a purple streak of light, “Steve” was being seen by photographers who were capturing the aurora light phenomenon. Those who initially witnessed the light thought it was a “proton arc”, which are auroras that are created when solar protons bombard the upper atmosphere.
However, University of Calgary associate professor Eric Donovan, was prompted to investigate further. Using data collated from the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, Donovan was able to measure Steve’s characteristics, including temperature and gas make up.
“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before,” he told the ABC. Donovan is working with a group of scientists to document Steve more properly, but as it was Steve actually is – that remains a mystery for now.
Donovan told Gizmodo that he was working on some theories with a colleague, and that the idea would be “published shortly.”