The Vertical Distribution of the Optical Emissions of a Steve and Picket Fence Event

W. E. Archer, J. P. St.- Maurice, B. Gallardo-Lacourt, G. W. Perry, C. M. Cully, E. Donovan, D. M. Gillies, R. Downie, J. Smith, D. Eurich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


So-called “Steve” subauroral purple emissions have recently been uncovered by auroral photographers and have rapidly become an intense subject of debate as to their origin. In some events, nearby periodic green emissions have also been uncovered and given the name “picket fence,” owing to their appearance. The present paper advances our understanding of these phenomena by narrowing down the altitude extent of the Steve and picket fence emissions. Our determination is based on the event of 16 September 2017, which was simultaneously observed from two vantage points, allowing for a determination of the height range of Steve and picket fence through triangulation. We show that the picket fence extend between 95- and 150-km altitude and is aligned with the geomagnetic field, while the Steve altitude spread is between 130 and 270 km. We also show the two phenomena to be on nearby or perhaps the same magnetic field lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10719-10725
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Steve
  • altitude
  • ionosphere
  • photography
  • triangulation


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