Psalm 19:1

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.“

I will never forget the time I saw the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. This mysterious phenomenon appears like curtains of light – usually green – swirling and turning in the atmosphere, usually in very northern latitudes. I saw the Northern Lights while I was on a speaking tour of the Shetland Isles – the northernmost part of the United Kingdom. The lights are formed by charged particles, or ions, from the Sun, being attracted by the Earth’s magnetic field, towards the magnetic north pole.

Apparently, there are many aspects of the aurora phenomena that are still not well understood. One such effect, code-named Steve, is the occasional appearance of purple light, in atmospheric layers lower than that in which Northern Lights usually form. The word Steve stands for  Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement – although originally the name was just assigned for fun. The cause of these purple lights is similar to that of classical aurora, and appears to be because of a chemical or physical connection between the aurora layers and sub-aurora layers.

It is interesting that the studies of this phenomenon required large numbers of lay observers. These are referred to in the report as “citizen scientists”. A great many people around the world photographed the phenomenon, and sent the results to NASA. Even somewhere as close as the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere can be as mysterious as the surface of Pluto, and yet ordinary people can provide help in cracking the scientific mysteries. Perhaps some of these people would remember, as they observed, that “The heavens declare the glory of God”.

Prayer: We do indeed know, O Lord, that the heavens declare Your glory. May our observation of the sky lead only to praising You further. Amen.

Ref: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. “Mystery of purple lights in sky solved with help from citizen scientists.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2018. <>. Image: NASA, Public Domain.

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