This composite image shows STEVE alongside the Milky Way over Childs Lake, Manitoba, Canada.

This composite image shows STEVE alongside the Milky Way over Childs Lake, Manitoba, Canada.

(Image: © Krista Trinder/NASA)

As the northern lights danced and glowed in the night sky this past Labor Day weekend, skywatchers in places like Alaska and Canada may have spotted a rose-tinted streak amidst the dazzling display. But this pink-ish ribbon isn’t an aurora — it’s STEVE!

STEVE (the Strong Thermal Emissions Velocity Enhancement) is a spectacular and colorful celestial phenomenon that was first spotted 2016. Scientists have studied the particles associated with STEVE for decades, but only recently have they witnessed the phenomenon in the sky. This past summer, a research team led by University of Calgary researcher D.M. Gillies confirmed that, despite its colorful appearance, STEVE isn’t a type of aurora but something entirely unique. 

In May, researchers confirmed that STEVE is not an aurora. But this new research expands our understanding of the strange phenomenon even further.

Related: Meet ‘STEVE,’ the Mystery Scientists Are Beginning to Unravel

“The big thing is, we can clearly say now it’s [a] not regular aurora,” study co-author Don Hampton, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said in a statement. “It’s a new phenomenon; that’s pretty exciting.”

One characteristic that distinguishes STEVE is its mauve hues, which are different from the typically green, purple, blue and yellow beams of auroras. Additionally, STEVE is visible from latitudes much farther south than auroras usually are. 

Read More