Written by Katherine Klingseis
Central Iowans will have the best luck seeing the northern lights tonight if they look toward the north horizon, an Iowa State University professor said.
“Try to get away from as much city lights as possible and look up toward the north,” said Charles Kerton, Iowa State professor of astronomy.
A flare shot from a large sunspot on the side of the sun facing Earth on Tuesday. This flare caused particles to be thrown in the direction of Earth, Kerton said.
The particles then should cause Earth’s magnetic field to become distorted and pushed down to lower latitudes. Kerton said this distortion may let central Iowans see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis.
The chance for people in lower latitudes to see the northern lights is greater because the sun is at its “solar maximum.” This is a time during the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity when flares happen more often, Kerton said.
Still, it is not common for a flare to cause the magnetic field to distort so much that it allows Iowans to see the northern lights, Kerton said.
“It needs to be a pretty strong explosion,” Kerton said. “This sunspot was one of the largest in the past decade.”
Clouds could obstruct people’s view, Kerton said. According to the National Weather Service, skies over Des Moines will be mostly cloudy.
From Yahoo News..