Thanks to the help offered by citizen scientists, researchers were able to spot a new feature of the northern lights. They discovered a purple light shaped like a ribbon, and they decided to call it Steve until they were to find out what that was. The Swarm magnetic field mission of ESA has also seen Steve and is currently trying to understand the source and the nature of this majestic feature of the northern lights.
- Citizen scientists who are passionate about the aurora borealis were able to determine a new feature.
- The northern lights were captured to feature a ribbon-shaped purple light which was named Steve.
- The auroras indicate the electrically charged connection between the Sun and our planet.
During the recent Swarm science meeting in Canada, Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary stated that the newly discovered feature did not exist 20 years ago when he was studying the aurora borealis. The shimmering light of the aurora borealis appears as spectacular and captivating. These lights represent a visual reminder of the fact that Earth is electrically linked to the Sun. Thus, if we reach to understand the auroras, then we will be able to familiarize with the connection between the Sun and out planet, regarding the charged atomic particles of the solar wind and the magnetic field of Earth.
Prof. Donovan argued that back in 1997, researchers only benefited from an all-sky imager located in North America which helped them analyze the auroras from the ground. That was the only technology they could use back then. Researchers would have considered themselves lucky if they captured a picture of the aurora borealis the same night when a satellite also collected some information about the same event.
Nowadays, after the massive boost of technology, scientists can use more satellite missions like Swarm and all-sky imagers than they had access to in the past. Now they can take about a hundred pictures per night. Experts are very grateful to citizen scientists and social media which helped them document much data. For example, the Aurorasaurus website offers users the chance to talk about the auroras and their peculiarities.
Thus, hundreds of citizen scientists are connected to specialists, and they can share more information or the latest images of recent events. The group of citizen scientists called the Alberta Aurora Chasers also included some photographers who took pictures of the new feature of northern lights and have shown it to scientists like Prof. Donovan. The wide ribbon of gas indicated to have a very high temperature of 3000 Celsius degrees while the ribbon had 25 km in width. Scientist stated that this feature is common, but it was never captured on camera before.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia