A group of Aurora enthusiasts on Facebook have given an unusual name to a newly discovered astronomical phenomenon. The event is being called Steve and displays a purple streak of light in the night sky.

Last year, several stunning pictures of a purple streak of light appeared on Facebook. These images were captured by some skywatchers who enjoy watching night skies to witness northern lights. When these pictures were shared on Facebook, many members of Alberta Aurora Chasers group believed it to be a proton aurora.

What are auroras?

Auroras are the flickering streaks of lights seen in the sky above the north and south poles of Earth.

These lights are created when Earth’s Magnetic Fields cause streams of charged particles to channel down and hit different gasses in the atmosphere.

This collision results in the creation of colorful lights, commonly known as Southern and Northern lights. According to scientists, protons can also hit the gasses, but the wavelengths emitted by the proton collisions are not visible to human eyes.

When physicist Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary in Canada saw pictures of purple streaks of lights, he was convinced that they were not proton auroras. According to Donovan, a high-powered Swarm satellite of European Space Agency (ESA) was involved in studying the Steve phenomenon. Donovan gathered information about the location and timing of Steve and combined it with ESA's Swarm magnetic field mission data.

According to Donovan, data collected by the electric field instrument onboard the satellite showed very apparent changes in the region of the lights. It was found that the temperature 300 kilometers above Earth's surface, where streaks of light appeared, increased by 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000°C). It was also revealed that a 25-km-wide ribbon of gas was flowing with a speed of about 6 km/s compared to a speed of about 10 m/s one either side of the ribbon.

Steve looks like a flow of hot gasses

Donovan says it appears that Steve is like a flow of hot gasses that move with higher speed than the air around it. It is not an aurora as it is not caused by the interaction of Earth’s magnetic fields with solar particles.

Moreover, Steve is not a rare phenomenon, although it has been noticed for the first time.

The discovery of the phenomenon could be made possible thanks to advanced satellites, ground-based observations, and lots of dedicated citizen scientists who are always ready to spend their precious time to document such events.

Donovan says lots of citizen-science projects nowadays have been providing scientists with mind power like never before.

A member of Alberta Aurora Chasers group suggests that Steve is a perfect name for this phenomenon and can be used as an acronym for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.