HomeSpace NewsSTEVE appears from blood-red arc of light in New Zealand footage

STEVE appears from blood-red arc of light in New Zealand footage

Auroral images taken over New Zealand, showing a red auroral arc (left), the skyglow called STEVE (middle), and a partial arc with green picket fence structures (right). (Image credit: Martinis et al.)

On March 17, 2015, a blood-red arc of light cut through the sky hundreds of miles above New Zealand. Over the next half hour, an amateur skywatcher observed that arc as it transformed before his eyes into one of Earth’s most puzzling atmospheric mysteries — the eerie ribbon of light known as STEVE — newly released images reveal.

STEVE, short for “strong thermal velocity enhancement,” is an atmospheric oddity first described in 2018, after amateur aurora chasers saw a narrow stream of gauzy purple light arc across the sky over northern Canada. Scientists who studied the phenomenon soon confirmed that STEVE was not an aurora — the multi-colored glow that appears at high latitudes when solar particles collide with atoms high in Earth’s atmosphere. Rather, STEVE was a separate and unique phenomenon that’s “completely unknown (opens in new tab) to science.

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