Aurora Australis
In this undated handout photo the Aurora Australis or ‘southern lights’ are seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-114 mission. (Photo : Photo provided by NASA via Getty Images)

No one knew what to call the mysterious strip of purple and green light that appeared in the sky. So, it was dubbed Steve.

According to a report from the European Space Agency (ESA), its citizen astronomers were the first one to get a glimpse of the strange ribbon of light. Now, the agency’s magnetic field Swarm mission has also encountered Steve and is beginning to play their part in understanding this spectacular new-found feature of the northern lights.

“In 1997 we had just one all-sky imager in North America to observe the aurora borealis from the ground,” University of Calgary professor Eric Donovan explained at a recent Swarm science meeting in Canada. “Back then we would be lucky if we got one photograph a night of the aurora taken from the ground that coincides with an observation from a satellite. Now, we have many more all-sky imagers and…