STEVE’s Cannonballs: Little Green Spheres of Light

Posted: November 24, 2020 by oldbrew in Electro-magnetism, solar system dynamics

Quote: ‘STEVE is a recently identified atmospheric phenomenon caused by supersonic plasma jets flowing at altitudes >100 km.’ Scientists continue to wrestle with its electromagnetic mysteries.

Nov. 22, 2020: Just when you thought STEVE couldn’t get any weirder. A new paper published in the journal AGU Advances reveals that the luminous purple ribbon we call “STEVE” is often accompanied by green cannonballs of light that streak through the atmosphere at 1000 mph.

“Citizen scientists have been photographing these green streaks for years,” says Joshua Semeter of Boston University, lead author of the study. “Now we’re beginning to understand what they are.”

STEVE is a recent discovery. It looks like an aurora, but it is not. The purple glow is caused by hot (3000 °C) rivers of gas flowing through Earth’s magnetosphere faster than 13,000 mph. This distinguishes it from auroras, which are ignited by energetic particles raining down from space. Canadian aurora watchers first called attention to the phenomenon about 10 years ago, whimsically naming it STEVE; researchers have been studying it ever since.

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  1. Curious George says:

    Plasma is electrically neutral, so STEVE should occur anywhere, not just in polar regions.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Research Article Open Access
    The Mysterious Green Streaks Below STEVE
    01 October 2020

    Strong thermal emission velocity enhancement (STEVE) is an optical phenomenon of the sub-auroral ionosphere arising from extreme ion drift speeds.
    . . .
    The source is most likely direct excitation of ambient oxygen by superthermal electrons generated by ionospheric turbulence induced by the extreme electric fields driving STEVE.

  3. Damian says:

    Is this phenomenon new, or is it something that was always there and we have only recently noticed (like sprites for example)?
    If it is new what has changed? Is it an effect of the weakening activity of the Sun and it’s impact on the Earth’s magnetosphere?
    Why are we spending so much time and effort on non physical stuff like Black Holes rather than this? So many “scientists” who claim to be experts on our atmosphere yet we can still be surprised by something so close to home.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Damian – only recently discovered by citizen scientists, i.e. people with hi-tech digital cameras hoping to get aurora pics and thinking ‘what’s this?’

  5. stpaulchuck says:

    aww come on now. Everyone paying attention knows that STEVE is a cover/hide for alien spacecraft spying on Earth defense forces. Those fast ‘balls’ are their drones breaking away for a sweep. It’s true. I read it in the National Enquirer while in the checkout line. Would they lie? Now I’m going to get back to that stunning article on Cher’s two-headed Martian baby.

  6. Damian says:

    Hi OB. That’s why I mentioned sprites, I remember getting coruscated for daring to try and discuss these on a mainstream science forum about 10 years ago.
    This is the blog of a (very) amateur storm chaser:
    I think he missed out on being the first amateur to capture an image of sprites by a few days. He has some really cool stuff.
    Wouldn’t want to have solar panels under that!

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