Eastern Iowa got to witness something not everyone gets to late Thursday evening.

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The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are commonly seen at high latitudes of the Earth, so like places such as Alaska, Canada, and Antarctica. This light show can typically be seen dancing around at both poles, north and south.

Aurora borealis is pretty common up north. In places such as Alaska, it’s common to see the northern lights at night. But to see them down in Iowa is a rare sight for the state. Last night, people in Iowa, Minnesota, Dakota, Michigan, and Wisconsin were able to watch this spectacular show.

Northern Iowa; Will Roth via Twitter
Northern Iowa; Will Roth via Twitter
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So how do the northern lights occur? Here’s a quick science lesson from NASA:

The Sun is constantly sending heat, light, energy, and small particles. The Earth protects us from most of the energy and small particles with a magnetic field. According to NASA, when the Sun releases a “huge bubble of electrified gas” at high speeds, also referred to as a solar storm, some of the released energy travels down the magnetic field lines at the Earth’s poles.

via NASA
via NASA
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The particles interact with the gasses in our atmosphere and we get a cool light show. Green and red lights come from oxygen and blue and purple come from nitrogen.

 

Iowans across the state shared their photos of the light show on social media.

 

 

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