Steve - an aurora related phenomenon

jim mcnamara

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When people find something they have never seen and do not understand they give it a name. It makes them feel like they know something, even when there really is little understanding.

So somebody somewhere suggested a name for something several people reported seeing and photographing. It stuck.

Enter Steve: http: //www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Swarm/When_Swarm_met_Steve
The picture is beautiful. The article is worth a read, IMO.

The article goes on to describe how a somewhat common phenomenon became noticed and now is the subject of study by Eric Donovan - U Alberta I believe.
 
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interesting article. [emoji106]
 

davenn

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When people find something they have never seen and do not understand they give it a name. It makes them feel like they know something, even when there really is little understanding.
When Swarm met Steve
Meet_Steve_small.jpg

Meet Steve
21 April 2017
Thanks to social media and the power of citizen scientists chasing the northern lights, a new feature was discovered recently. Nobody knew what this strange ribbon of purple light was, so … it was called Steve.

ESA’s Swarm magnetic field mission has now also met Steve and is helping to understand the nature of this new-found feature.

Speaking at the recent Swarm science meeting in Canada, Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary explained how this new finding couldn’t have happened 20 years ago when he started to study the aurora.

While the shimmering, eerie, light display of auroras might be beautiful and captivating, they are also a visual reminder that Earth is connected electrically to the Sun. A better understanding of the aurora helps to understand more about the relationship between Earth’s magnetic field and the charged atomic particles streaming from the Sun as the solar wind.
This feature has been seen for at least 4 of the last 5 decades that I have been observing aurora. The first one I photo'ed was back in the late 1980's around the time of that solar max.

it went almost directly overhead and almost from horizon to horizon

upload_2017-4-25_16-10-40.png


for many years we have all been calling these proton arcs .... god only knows how they came up with the name steve ???? haha


Dave
 

Borg

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I saw that the other day. Steve is a pretty dumb name for it. :oldeyes:
 

jim mcnamara

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The article discusses 'proton arcs'. Per the article: The wavelengths generated by high energy protons are not visible to humans. So, I guess it is just as bad a misnomer as 'Steve'. I've seen Steve/Spirit lines/Proton arcs, too. Up in Alaska, a Tlingit guy with me related their version of where the purplish stripe comes from. It is a spirit line people can see. Or anyway as close as I can make the idea understandable.

So here we are with the score: 0 for 3 on factually explanatory names. Of the three names spirit lines and the stories are more fun. IMO.

The real point is, people name things they have no clue about. Makes them feel better. Another point is: why did it take so long to become a scientific study? I do not know.
 

jim mcnamara

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And FWIW - it is not new at all. @davenn posted an older picture of it. I saw it in Alaska fifty years ago.
And the people there had really old folk stories about it. I think light pollution and latitude are good reasons why most people have never seen it.
 
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cobalt124

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This feature has been seen for at least 4 of the last 5 decades that I have been observing aurora. The first one I photo'ed was back in the late 1980's around the time of that solar max.

it went almost directly overhead and almost from horizon to horizon

View attachment 196873

for many years we have all been calling these proton arcs .... god only knows how they came up with the name steve ???? haha


Dave
 
The real point is, people name things they have no clue about. Makes them feel better.
@jedishrfu posted a Smithsonian article about it in which it was more clearly explained why "Steve" was chosen as a name: Amateur Skywatchers Spot New Atmospheric Phenomenon:
The name Steve reflects their confusion about the phenomenon’s origins, Dvorsky writes, and reminded someone of the movie Over the Hedge “in which a character arbitrarily conjures up the name Steve to describe an object he’s not sure about.”
To me, it was pretty clever to pick a name that already carries (thanks to the cultural reference) a context of "we don't know what this phenomenon is".

And on a more general level, I'd argue that we pretty much never name things to "make ourselves feel better." We name things so we can talk about them - period. Even an alphanumeric label or a serial number is still effectively a name.
 
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jim mcnamara

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@UsableThought You might want to read older Biology papers or texts before 1920, specifically ones dealing with taxonomy and discovery of species.

And I disagree. People in the far North America ascribe special meaning to those aurora streaks. Which is precisely the point. That is what humans do with unknown/unfamiliar natural phenomena. Early scientists included.
 
You might want to read older Biology papers or texts before 1920, specifically ones dealing with taxonomy and discovery of species.
Here's the little I know: way back, within the Linnaean system, a new bird or plant or insect might be called "nondescript" until it was classified and "named properly"; e.g. as the Wikipedia article puts it, given "a formal name in the accepted nomenclature." This seems unrelated to the social behavior of a group of amateur sky-watchers agreeing to call something weird "Steve."
And I disagree. People in the far North America ascribe special meaning to those aurora streaks. Which is precisely the point. That is what humans do with unknown/unfamiliar natural phenomena. Early scientists included.
This sounds quite interesting, but still tangential to the use of the name "Steve" as described in the article that @jedishrfu and I linked to. That article states that the persons in question used "Steve" because it was convenient (they needed a name), amusing (to them), and had the further attraction of acknowledging that they were discussing an unusual and not-yet-defined phenomenon. Whereas you are talking, I gather from real-life experience, about other persons with whom you're familiar & what they've done historically, e.g. ascribed special meaning to aurora streaks. I'd be curious to hear more about this.
 
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