A group of citizen scientists in Alberta, Canada, was not sure what the bright purple (sometimes green) arch was in the night sky they had been photographing. Nor were scientists Elizabeth MacDonald, a space physicist at NASA, and Eric Donovan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary; The group ̵
The phenomenon now has a countdown of an official name: strong increase in thermal emission speed (Steve, for short). It can be observed further south than the northern lights and is believed to be, according to a recently published article, "an optical manifestation" of another phenomenon, the sub-auroral ions drift. Steve is a visible strip of ionized gas, traveling at 6.4 km (4 miles) per second.
Last week, NASA called on citizen scientists and photographers to help with their research on Steve and report sightings to the Aurorasaurus project. It is, Donovan has said, "a truly new era" of collaboration between scientists and amateur professionals.