European Space Agency

What a Purple Column of Light Named “Steve” Teaches Us About Our Potential

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What would you think if you were looking into the night sky and saw a purple column of light streak vertically in front of you? At first glance, it appears to be a phenomenon much like the Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights,” according to Eric Donovan. He’s an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary. Prof. Donovan says it has the same arc shape as an aurora but the color is different. Auroras also usually go horizontally, while “Steve” as it’s been named, is vertical.

Canadians citizens discovered the phenomenon, which was recently verified by the European Space Agency (ESA). Prof. Donovan first came across it while viewing pictures on the Alberta Aurora Chasers’ Facebook page. “We have seen it from Hudson Bay all the way over to Alaska in our data, and so it’s like someone reached in from space and drew a line with a purple magic marker across the Earth,” Donovan said.

He and the ESA took the photos and information from the group’s page and cross-referenced it with data from ESA Swarm satellites. These monitor Earth’s magnetic field. Data from special cameras which watch the night sky was also used. Donovan and colleagues discovered that the phenomenon is 18 miles (25 km) wide, can last up to an hour, runs East to West, and isn’t often visible October…

Watch How Stars Will Move Over the Next 5,000,000 Years

The European Space Agency (ESA) recently published a video featuring data from their Gaia mission. Gaia is an effort to make a 3D map of the Milky Way. This entails figuring out where all the billion stars in our galaxy are, how they’re moving, and how fast. It’s a big job.

In the video, we see data for 2,081,370 stars moving over a simulated period of 5,000,000 years starting in roughly 2014. Each frame in the video simulates 750 years of movement. As…