If this picture above looks a little “otherworldly,” you’d be right. This is a scan on the surface of the sun. Using specific filters, this is a sunspot that today, ejecting a massive solar flare right at the earth. This flare reached the X-level of intensity which is reserved for only the strongest of solar flares.
This is of some concern as the power of this flare could cause some issues here on Earth, but the hope is it will instead produce a beautiful sight. Skywatchers in Iowa and the rest of the Upper Midwest will be closely watching the skies late Friday night and into Saturday morning, when particles from the Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, reach the atmosphere.
When that happens, there is hope Iowa could get a taste of the northern lights. Such displays here in Iowa are rare, one of the last well documented events occurred back in 2005. But this sun cycle is strong and even if this flare doesn’t produce northern lights, there are plenty of more opportunities this year and into 2013. We’ll monitor the situation tomorrow night and will attempt to capture the northern lights if we get so lucky to see them.