For the 4th day in a row, a stream of high-speed solar wind is blowing at 600 km/s (1.3 million mph) around Earth. The gaseous material is flowing from a wide hole in the sun’s atmosphere. It is so wide that Earth could remain inside the stream for another 2 or 3 days. During the weekend the stream of solar wind sparked G1 and G2-class geomagnetic storms. High atop Earth’s atmosphere, hot ribbons of plasma began to flow through our planet’s magnetic field. Suddenly, STEVE appeared… farther south than usual! You don’t have to travel to the Arctic Circle to meet STEVE. He might be coming to you.

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
Steve appears in the sky over Alberta during G1 and G2 magnetic storms during the weekend. By Alan Dyer

STEVE, the strange auroral arc, put in quite the appearance on Sunday night, with a fine show over southern Alberta lasting about an hour,” says Dyer. “It started as a faint arc in the east, then intensified, cutting across the entire sky.

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
STEVE, the strange auroral arc, put in quite the appearance on Sunday night, with a fine show over southern Alberta lasting about an hour. By Alan Dyer

STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) was discovered by sky watchers in Alberta only a few years ago, although the phenomenon was surely active long before. The narrow ribbon is related to auroras, but has a distinct shape, color, and habitat. Researchers are now beginning to understand STEVE as a manifestation of hot plasma currents in the upper atmosphere.

Elizabeth MacDonald recently published a paper on STEVE. In it, they link STEVE to a phenomenon called “subauroral ion drifts” (SAIDs). Satellites have tracked thousands of SAIDs: They tend to appear most often during spring and fall and seem to prefer latitudes near +60 degrees.

But this weekend, STEVE traveled farther south than usual. Greg Ash saw the ribbon over Ely, Minnesota, at latitude +47.9 N:

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
This is the most awesome STEVE shot Ive ever seen. So fantastic! By Greg Ash via Space Weather

As you can imagine, I was totally stoked,” says Ash. “This was my first STEVE sighting and it was unforgettable. It was visible with the naked eye and I could see the pulsations of green with the purple.

Elsewhere, STEVE was sighted in Tofte, Minnesota (+47.6N)

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STEVE made a nice appearance in Minnesota on 5/5/2018 too. By Thomas Spence

Buxton, North Dakota (+47.6 N)

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
Within seconds Steve made an appearance above North Dakota. By Sharon Watson

Arcadia, Michigan, (+44.5N)

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
Steve was also bright in the sky over Lake Michigan. By Aerick Wilk via SpaceWeather

and Fort Frances, Ontario (+48.6N).

steve sky phenomenon, steve sky phenomenon pictures, steve sky phenomenon may 2018
Steve did not last long over Ontaria and it morphed from a violet and green arc to green fragments which changed rapidly. By Lauri Kangas

These relatively low latitude apparitions are an encouraging sign for sky watchers who wish to see the strange ribbon for themselves. You don’t have to travel to the Arctic Circle to meet STEVE. He might be coming to you. But it is still unknown why we see them always appearing always more nowadays.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. We in May so valley Alaska do not see any northern lights winter or summer any more our weather conditions are so much warmer and bone cold is now just cold Alaska is thawing out.

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