The night sky was illuminated with a rare aurora on Sunday night – and it is called STEVE.

Those looking up at the night skies in some places across the region were treated to a visit from STEVE – a strong thermal emission velocity enhancement.

To the untrained eye, the rare spectacular could easily be confused as being part of the northern lights, which were also visible on Sunday, but it is more of a distant cousin.

The Northern Echo: Steve captured over the North Yorks Moors.Steve captured over the North Yorks Moors. (Image: HANNAH CHAPMAN)

The northern lights occur when charged particles from the sun react with the oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth's atmosphere causing them to glow. The iconic aurora normally shimmers with slithering green, white and red light.

But STEVE is different in that It appears as a single arc-shaped band of purple, white and red. It is caused by a ribbon of hot gasses which have reacted with solar storms.

It is also even harder to predict than the normal aurora borealis.

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Photos of the spectacle on Sunday show bands of light from STEVE shooting across the night sky.

The Northern Echo: Steve over the Northumberland coast.Steve over the Northumberland coast. (Image: PA)

It was spotted near Northallerton over the North Yorkshire Moors and above Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland where both Steve and the northern lights were visible together.

It is not easy to predict when either stunning display will grace our region’s skies but they are normally most active around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes and is best seen around 10pm to 2am.