INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT STEVE
For the past three years, members of a Facebook group called the Alberta Aurora Chasers, consisting of photographers who exchange tips and images of the famed northern lights, have been capturing images of a gorgeous arc of light across the sky. The arc can be seen streaking across the northern sky typically in mid-latitude location like Calgary or Edmonton. It has a distinctive purplish or greenish colour and sometimes looks braided like a helix.
The group initially mistook the glowing ribbon of purple and green light as an airplane contrail. It was only when experimenting with their camera settings, like slow shutter speeds and photo editing software to improve the colour saturation did they realise that the arc of light was self illuminated, unlike condensation trails from airplanes that are lit from light sources on the ground.
For a while, the Alberta Aurora Chasers assumed it was a proton aurora, a rare kind of aurora caused by energised protons, as opposed to electrons, tearing through the earth’s magnetosphere. Then last year, some of the group members went to the University of Calgary to meet astronomy professor Eric Donovan and showed him the images. Donovan instantly recognised that what he was looking wasn’t a proton arc, but he couldn’t tell what it was.
After they met up with Donovan, Chris Ratzlaff, a photographer and weather enthusiast and the Facebook group’s admin, posted a message on the Facebook group suggesting they call it ‘Steve’. The name comes from a scene in the animation movie ‘ Over the Hedge’ where all the animals stare at a frighteningly huge hedge not knowing what it was and begin to feel concerned until one of the animals, a squirrel, says ‘Let’s call it Steve’, and everyone feels better.
A surprising aspect of Steve is that it’s remarkably common, but it hadn’t been noticed until now.