The mysterious green streaks below STEVE
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Citation (published version)Joshua Semeter, Michael Hunnekuhl, Elizabeth MacDonald, Michael Hirsch, Neil Zeller, Alexei Chernenkoff, Jun Wang. 2020. "The Mysterious Green Streaks Below STEVE." AGU Advances, Volume 1, Issue 4, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020AV000183
Strong thermal emission velocity enhancement (STEVE) is an optical phenomenon of the subauroral ionosphere arising from extreme ion drift speeds. STEVE consists of two distinct components in true‐color imagery: a mauve or whitish arc extended in the magnetic east–west direction and a region of green emission adjacent to the arc, often structured into quasiperiodic columns aligned with the geomagnetic field (the “picket fence”). This work employs high‐resolution imagery by citizen scientists in a critical examination of fine‐scale features within the green emission region. Of particular interest are narrow “streaks” of emission forming underneath field‐aligned picket fence elements in the 100‐ to 110‐km altitude range. The streaks propagate in curved trajectories with dominant direction toward STEVE from the poleward side. The elongation is along the direction of motion, suggesting a drifting point‐like excitation source, with the apparent elongation due to a combination of motion blur and radiative lifetime effects. The cross‐sectional dimension is <1 km, and the cases observed have a duration of ∼20–30 s. The uniform coloration of all STEVE green features in these events suggests a common optical spectrum dominated by the oxygen 557.7‐nm emission line. The source is most likely direct excitation of ambient oxygen by superthermal electrons generated by ionospheric turbulence induced by the extreme electric fields driving STEVE. Some conjectures about causal connections with overlying field‐aligned structures are presented, based on coupling of thermal and gradient‐drift instabilities, with analogues to similar dynamics observed from chemical release and ionospheric heating experiments.
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