Steve and the Power of Citizen Science

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The aurora lights sometimes shine a bit differently than expected (image credit: Unsplash/Raul Popadineți).

The power of Citizen Science is continuing to show as groups around the world make more and more discoveries. For example, groups of Aurora chasers and documentarians have identified a hereto unknown phenomenon in the sky. At the time, they called it "Steve," in homage to the Movie Over the Hedge (because they didn't know what it was!), however, they have since enlisted the help of Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary. Donovan works with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Swarm magnetic field mission, an Earth-Observing constellation of satellites measuring how the Earth's magnetic field changes.

With data from Swarm, Donovan was able to characterize Steve a little better: it is a ribbon of gas that is flowing westward around the Earth about 300 km above the surface. The ribbon is about 25 km wide, travelling at 6 km/s, and measures in temperature at about 3000°C!


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Steve and the Power of Citizen Science
European Space Agency
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.