The Northern Lights Were Seen Across The UK Last Night, With A Surprise Cameo From... Steve?

The light phenomenon was not alone on Sunday night.
The aurora borealis (left) alongside a strong thermal emission velocity enhancement, a rare aurora-like phenomenon named "Steve"
The aurora borealis (left) alongside a strong thermal emission velocity enhancement, a rare aurora-like phenomenon named "Steve"
Owen Humphreys - PA Images via Getty Images

The Northern Lights were visible all across the UK on Sunday night – and they brought a surprise companion with them.

Yes, Steve, also known as a ribbon of purple and green light which occasionally appears over the UK, clearly decided to join the show as the weekend drew to a close.

Last seen in March 2021 in the Shetland Islands, Steve made an unexpected appearance for residents across Northumberland, County Durham and Argyll on Sunday.

While the Northern Lights is a world-famous phenomenon also known as the aurora borealis, Steve has only have this name since 2016, after a US citizen science project funded by Nasa and the National Science Foundation.

According to the BBC, the name is thought to come from the 2006 animated film, Over the Hedge, where animals wake up from hibernation to find a daunting hedge around their homes – and decide to call it Steve to make it less intimidating.

Scientists then reworked this playful name into a serious acronym: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Ribbon-like Steve tends to only appear when the oval-shape of a huge aurora is present for a fleeting visit, popping up and lasting between 20 minutes and an hour before disappearing again.

Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre has studied Steve using pictures from the ground along with satellites for some time.

Experts believe the light is made up of a fast-moving stream of hot particles, known as a sub-auroral ion drift – and that’s why its appearance is so rare.

So, not only did keen skywatchers get to see the Northern Lights appear across the whole of the UK this weekend, branching out from their usual hangout spot in Scotland, but they got to see Steve, too.

And the lesser-known light show was visible from the UK, along with Canada, northern US states and New Zealand, according to Nasa.

It’s thought it was strong solar winds which made the Northern Lights so accessible this year over the weekend.

Charged particles were sent towards Earth, then pulled into the North Pole’s magnetic energy to interact with the planet’s atmosphere, resulting in the world-famous light show known around the world.

Here’s a look at some of the photos taken in the UK on Sunday night (both with and without Steve)...

And here’s a look at the amazing photos of the Northern Lights from outside the UK, too...

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