An aurora called Steve, and other strange things seen in the skies

Fortean Times - - Strange Days -


A group of aurora en­thu­si­asts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve. Eric Dono­van from the Univer­sity of Cal­gary in Canada spot­ted the fea­ture in pho­tos shared on the Face­book group Al­berta Aurora Chasers. He didn’t recog­nise it as a cat­a­logued phe­nom­e­non and although the group were call­ing it a pro­ton arc, he knew pro­ton au­ro­ras were not vis­i­ble. He knew Steve was not any­thing like an aurora and then found it had been recorded by his own net­work of cam­eras, but he had not no­ticed it. It was also picked up by one of the three satel­lites of the Euro­pean Space Agency’s Swarm mis­sion, which or­bit Earth, mea­sur­ing mag­netic and elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity in the up­per at­mos­phere. By chance, one of them flew through a pur­ple streak on 26 July 2016, match­ing pho­to­graphs taken from the ground at ex­actly the same time. Prof Dono­van could also fol­low the streak as it swept west­wards from the Hud­son Bay to Alaska.

“The satel­lite flew straight through Steve and data from the in­stru­ment showed very clear changes,” said Prof Dono­van. “The tem­per­a­ture 300km [190 miles] above the Earth’s sur­face jumped by 3,000˚C [5,432˚F] and the data re­vealed a 25km [15-mile] wide rib­bon of gas flow­ing west­wards at about 6km/s [13,400mph] com­pared to a speed of about 10m/s [22mph] ei­ther side of the rib­bon. Our idea is this is heat­ing the up­per at­mos­phere, caus­ing it to glow. ”

No one fully un­der­stands the un­der­ly­ing physics of the rib­bon, but it ap­pears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the in­ter­ac­tion of so­lar par­ti­cles with the Earth’s mag­netic field. The group re­port­edly called it Steve in homage to a 2006 chil­dren’s film, Over the Hedge, where a group of an­i­mals are faced with a vast hedge and do not know what it is, so they name it Steve. A mem­ber of Al­berta Aurora Chasers sug­gested this could stand for “Strong Ther­mal Emis­sion Ve­loc­ity En­hance­ment”.

Roger Haag­mans of the ESA said: “It is amaz­ing how a beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non, seen by ob­ser­vant cit­i­zens, can trig­ger sci­en­tists’ cu­rios­ity. It turns out that Steve is ac­tu­ally re­mark­ably com­mon, but we hadn’t no­ticed it be­fore. It’s thanks to ground-based ob­ser­va­tions, satel­lites, to­day’s ex­plo­sion of ac­cess to data and an army of cit­i­zen sci­en­tists join­ing forces to doc­u­ment it.” “Weather Eye” by Paul Si­mons (Times, 3 May); spaceweather.com, 22 May; BBC News, 23 April 2017.


Heavy April rain­fall caused a se­ries of mas­sive land­slides in the Colom­bian city of Maniza­les when an en­tire av­er­age month’s worth of rain fell in one night, tak­ing the lives of 17 peo­ple. Nearly a week later, res­i­dents were stunned when the clouds parted and a beam of white light formed into a quasi-hu­manoid shape that the more devout saw as Je­sus. Crowds gath­ered to film the ap­pari­tion and cheer, with some cry­ing “Dios mio!”

Oth­ers sug­gested it was re­lated to at­mo­spheric weapons like NASA’s al­leged Project Blue Beam, part of a con­spir­acy the­ory that claims NASA has been test­ing holo­graphic pro­jec­tion tech­nol­ogy to beam

hal­lu­ci­na­tory vi­sions in the sky to ter­rify the world’s cit­i­zens into sur­ren­der­ing to New World Or­der re­li­gion/gov­ern­ment. In the conspirasphere, Blue Beam is of­ten cited as a cause of strange aerial ap­pari­tions or bizarre me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­ena. BBC News, 20 April; mys­te­ri­ousuni­verse.org, 28 April 2017.


A bizarre black cube sup­pos­edly emerged from clouds over El Paso, Texas, in early March. Wal­ter C Lands, who cap­tured the cube on his mo­bile phone, said: “It be­gan to get very windy and I no­ticed a small por­tion of clouds be­gin to swirl and cir­cle in on each other, form­ing a por­tal shape – at which point the por­tal be­came jet black.” A se­cond eye­wit­ness, a woman ac­coun­tant who did not wish to be named, also took a pic­ture. “I no­ticed a square-shaped fig­ure,” she said. “It was a gi­ant solid thing with de­signs around it and a faint mag­netic os­cil­la­tion­type hum­ming.” Mr Lands passed his video to phe­nom­e­non in­ves­ti­ga­tors Se­cureteam10, a spokesman for which said: “It can only be de­scribed as a mas­sive three-di­men­sional cube-shaped UFO which in the first im­age can be seen shoot­ing out at a pretty fair rate of speed from what looks like a mas­sive black hole-type por­tal. The fact that this craft ar­rived by sud­denly ap­pear­ing from a black hole in the sky leads us to be­lieve this is not man-made.”

It was only a few miles from White Sands, the mil­i­tary test­ing site where the first atomic bomb was det­o­nated. Al­most all the ex­per­i­men­tal weapons re­search car­ried out here is highly clas­si­fied. Whether this has any bear­ing on the black cube is any­one’s guess.

It turns out that this story was al­ready do­ing the rounds two years ago be­fore be­ing in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­vived by the

Daily Ex­press. Scep­tics smelled a hoax back then, point­ing out anom­alies with the sup­posed video ‘ev­i­dence’ and con­clud­ing that: “Se­cureTeam10 is a se­rial hoaxer and is mak­ing up the ‘wit­nesses’ and sto­ries to go with them”. Hous­ton Chron­i­cle, 8 July; doubt­ful­news.com, 9 July 2015; ex­press.co.uk, 11 Mar 2017.


Thomas Beres­ford pho­tographed the above cloud re­sem­bling the Con­corde air­craft over the Rib­ble­head viaduct in North York­shire on 5 May. Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Paul Hud­son said it was called a roll cloud and was quite rare. “In this in­stance it’s caused by air flow­ing over the top of Wh­ern­side from the east, cre­at­ing ef­fec­tively a sta­tion­ary type of lentic­u­lar cloud – the shape and size of which is de­pen­dent on the wave­length of the sta­tion­ary wave,” he said. The lens-shaped clouds form when the air is sta­ble and winds blow from the same di­rec­tion. Con­corde was re­tired in 2003 by Bri­tish Air­ways and Air France who de­com­mis­sioned it for “com­mer­cial rea­sons” amid de­clin­ing pas­sen­ger num­bers. BBC News, 8 May 2017.

ABOVE: The new type of light spot­ted by aurora chasers and named ‘Steve’. BE­LOW: The ‘Je­sus cloud’ pho­tographed in Maniza­les, Colom­bia.

ABOVE: The ‘Con­corde’-shaped cloud over the Rib­ble­head viaduct in North York­shire. BE­LOW: The El Paso ‘Black Cube’.

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